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This book explains the meaning and use of a 
lousand or more every-day words and expressions 
hich are frequently misused or misunderstood. It 

intended to give exactly the information most 
ften wanted, and to present it in compact, accessible 
)rm, without pedantry, formality, or technicality. 
: is intended to save the person who wants to know 
•om the labor of searching through dictionaries, 
rammars, and rhetorics (or of searching for them, if 
e does not have them at hand) and of piecing to- 
ether for himself (if he can find it) the information 
e wants on a given word or phrase. Such a volume 
lould be like beauty in one respect at least, in that 

is ^4ts own excuse for being.'' That the pubhc is 
iterested in such matters as are discussed in these 
iges is an axiom to those who know the daily grist 
■ questions on correct English usage that comes to 
le copy-reader, the proof-reader, the professor, the 
iitor, from persons of all sorts who have the praise- 
orthy desire to use and not to abuse the English 

With such questions I have had intimate experi- 
ice for a number of years — a number that seems 
rge when I confess it, but still too small for a re- 



spectable boast. I dealt with many of them in a 
volume published not long ago, A Guide to Good 
English, and not the least of my reasons for consider- 
ing the book successful is the fact that questions 
continue to come to me — indeed, one could answer 
them till doomsday without exhausting the list. In 
them this book takes its origin; its foundation lies in 
a wider and deeper experience, that of English-speak- 
ing people in using words for the last ten centuries, 
as exhibited in the invaluable collection of examples 
arranged in the Oxford Dictionary. It is on experi- 
ence, then, that I have tried in every case to base 
my judgment; not on hearsay, theory, or tradition. 
The principle would seem to be an obvious one; 
doubtless every one of my predecessors in the field-r- 
and they are many — has set himself to follow it. 
But no one who examines many such books with 
care can avoid seeing the tendency of them to per- 
petuate errors, personal controversies and whims, and 
a traditional list of words and phrases, into which 
experience never guided them. One, for example, 
solemnly objects to the word cultured on the ground 
that there is no verb to culture, and a troop of others 
follow him like a flock of sheep. If any one of them 
had consulted his speaking knowledge of the lan- 
guage, he might have seen that the suffix -ed is often 
added to a noun to mean *' provided with'' — stilted 
does not imply a verb to stilt, and when we say that 
Paul Revere was ''booted and spurred," we mean 
that he was ''ready to ride,'' and not that he was 
kicked and pricked. Another invents a word which 
to him expresses the quaUty of Emerson's essays. 


and, under cover of discussing the word, barks at 
Emerson's heels through some four pages of fine 
print, a process which injures Emerson no more than 
it enhghtens the pubUc on the use of Enghsh words. 
That these instances are typical, any one may see 
for himself who cares to stir the dust of controversies 
perpetuated in their day by those who sought to end 

It is proverbially easier for a doctor to disagree 
with another than to heal himself; and this is no less 
ti-ue of Doctors of Philosophy than of Doctors of 
Medicine, — they, no less than physicians, are in dan- 
ger of infection from much dealing with morbid 
specimens. If I have avoided some of the errors I 
see in the work of others, it is not by fixing my mind 
on them, but by holding as an ideal the best usage of 
to-day. I have had before me, too, the results of the 
best scholarship of the age, but just now becoming 
available in complete form as the Oxford Dictionary 
nears completion. What I have accompKshed I am 
sure I could not have accomplished without it; and 
I am sure that most earlier writers on the subject 
could have accomplished more than I with less effort 
if they had had before them the results of the labors 
of thousands of intelligent and industrious readers, 
the millions of quotations, that go to make the Oxford 
Dictionary what it is. To it I make my main ac- 
knowledgment. Other indebtedness I can ac- 
knowledge only in general, to a wide variety of other 
works, from Anglo-Saxon lexicons to magazine ar- 
ticles on slang. 

Many of the questions which come to the profes- 


sional worker with words are such as the 'dictionary 
does not answer. It tells us satisfactorily how words 
ham been used, provided it is based on sufficiently 
wide research. On what might be termed the nega- 
tive side, how not to use words, it often affords no 
information, — unless it be by inference. On current 
idiom and slang (how certain words are used) it is 
unsatisfactory, for its machinery moves too slowly to 
keep up with language in the making. In such 
shallows a Ughter craft may move more easily and 

In the matter of negative usage, how not to use 
words, I have tried to keep a useful middle course 
between two dangers. On the one hand, I have tried 
to avoid dwelling on errors till they become the most 
memorable part of the discussion; on the other, I 
hope I have not failed to identify them so that they 
may be avoided. 

Current phrase offers no such plain sailing. In- 
stead, we have sand-bars that shift with every tide; 
personal experience and judgment are the only 
pilots. Such help as they afford me, I offer to 
others, in the form of discussion of a number of 
popular expressions that are seeking admission to the 

The main part of the book is the alphabetical list 
of words and expressions to which one may refer as 
to a dictionary. Such reference may be made by 
one who has not mastered, nor so much as read, the 
preceding part on the "Guiding Principles in the 
Choice of Words.'' These principles I have tried to 
outline in the briefest and simplest form for the 


benefit of those who wish to acquire standards of 
judgment as a foundation for habits of correct usage. 
Here, as throughout the book, I have tried to present 
matter that will be useful and acceptable to those 
who have gone far into the subject in a form that 
will be no less useful to those who have had no 
special training in it. I have necessarily used a 
number of grammatical terms; these will be found 
alphabetically arranged and explained in the glossary 
at the end of the book. In the main word-list I 
have not discussed such grammatical principles as 
would necessarily be Usted under their ordinary 
names, such as '' Sequence of Tenses,^' or "Use of 
the Subjunctive." For such matters I may be al- 
lowed to refer the reader to A Guide to Good English. 
Some of them, however, I have explained in discuss- 
ing constructions in which they occur, and to these I 
have given cross-references, such as, "Article, repeti- 
tion of; see 4," "Connectives; see AndJ^ 

In dealing with the principles of graimnar, as with 
other principles, I have been guided by my belief 
that the ways of our speech are formed by the users 
of it; that grammarians and dictionary-makers are 
not kings in the realm, but merely recording secre- 
taries; that it is the most democratic of human 

R. P. Utter. 

Amhebst College, June^ 1916. 

Part I 




'^How is any one to know? I can't memorize the 
whole dictionary!'' says the beginner, when called to 
account for some misuse of words. 

No, he cannot memorize the whole dictionary; 
and if he could and did, he would be a fool in spite of 
his knowledge, for doing by sheer effort of memory 
what he might do by intelligent method. Let him 
hold in his memory some elementary matters about 
the words (there are not many of them) that he uses 
every day, and acquire a grasp of a few simple prin- 
ciples that guide us in the use of all words. With 
these he will be as well equipped as any one is ex- 
pected to be save an expert on the subject. 


The first of these principles is that of grammar. 
And to many who wish to enter upon some knowl- 
edge of the subject, the name of grammar is a grim 



word written over the portal, forbidding entrance 
and forbidding hope. But grammar is simply a 
record of the ways of the language we use, and these 
ways have been shaped unconsciously by the people 
who have spoken it, — people for the most part who, 
if they so much as know the name of grammar, know 
it only to deride it or shudder at it. When we 
define grammar, then, as 'Hhe science of language,'' 
we mean that men have studied language, and 
recorded its ways of accomplishing its ends. Gram- 
mar is the record, for as long a period as we have 
record, of our customs or ways of using speech. It 
is like other law, merely codified custom. 

A treatise on grammar will be found to consist for 
the most part of discussion of the form of words 
(accidence, inflectional changes) and of their relations 
to one another in sentences (syntax). In English, 
we have comparatively little to do with inflectional 
changes of form, declensions, that is, and conjuga- 
tions. In ordinary speech we use the word grammar 
much as if it meant syntax, and that is what it 
means here. 

Other things being equal, the word or expression is 
to be preferred which conforms to the laws of gram- 
mar. It is on this principle that we decide between 
shall and will, or between donH and doesn't in a given 
sentence; it is this principle which tells us whether 
we are to say ''Let every one take his seat," or 
''Let every one take their seats." For the most 
part, we follow rules of grammar without knowing 
they exist, but the moment we begin to set ourselves 
standards of correctness in speech we find it neces- 


sary to make some study of the written code. The 
elements of grammar are accessible in simple form,^ 
and must be understood by any one who wishes to 
have any independent judgment as to good diction. 
But in this great democratic institution of lan- 
guage, the sovereign people have the right to violate 
the rules they have made for themselves, — if they 
can agree to do so. That a construction is un- 
grammatical is a sufficient objection to it unless the 
objection is overruled by the users of the language. 
Such expressions as if I please, I had rather, you were 
best, we cannot parse, — at least if we take the words 
in their usual modern meanings. But they are as 
deeply rooted in custom as are the customs, or laws, 
they violate, and so are laws in themselves. Such 
apparent exceptions are called idioms. The idioms 
of our own language ordinarily give us no trouble 
until the pedant challenges them; then we may be 
hard pressed to defend them unless we know some- 
thing of their history. When the pedant tells us 
that we must not say ^^I had rather'' because it is 
ungrammatical; instead we must say ^^I would 
rather'' ; we may answer loftily, if we know the facts, 
^'One is idiomatic, the other granmiatical; both are 

Good Use 

Good use differs from grammar chiefly in that it 
does not profess to be a science. It, too, is custom, but 
it is less definitely reduced to a code, more arbitrary 

^ For example, in A Guide to Good English, by the author of thia 
book, Harper & Brothers, 1914, pp. 138-159. 


in its decrees, and on the whole rather vaguely 
defined. In practice it seems to apply to the use of 
words as words, not in their syntactical relation, — 
it is most often discussed in connection with choice 
of words. 

A word is commonly said to be in good use when it 
is in ''present, national, and reputable use." Whether 
it is so or not, we are to determine by the usage of a 
''majority of the best writers and speakers." 

The question of present use need not detain us 
long. We do not as a rule garnish our speech with 
obsolete words (words that have passed out of use). 
If a man uses such words as erstj whilom^ yore, doff, 
in every-day speech, we think him affected; if he 
uses axe for ask, learn for teach, you was for you were, 
we think him vulgar or provincial. It is not neces- 
sary to know that these were once in good use, and 
to condemn them as obsolete; they may very well 
be condemned on other grounds. 

A word that is not in national use is condemned 
as local, provincial, dialect, or foreign. Local, pro- 
vincial, and dialect words are those which do not 
pass current outside of certain regions, such as, 
/ reckon, you all, calculate in the sense of think, sup- 
pose, or expect. Technical words are confined to 
comparatively small numbers of users, however 
widely scattered. They usually belong to trades, 
professions, occupations, and interests of various 
kinds, each of which has its own vocabulary. The 
golfer, the baseball enthusiast, the sailor, the rail- 
road man, the college student, the lawyer, the cattle- 
man, each has command of a large number of words 


that are almost unintelligible to the layman. These 
sometimes originate as slang and come into serious 
use, or originate as serious technical words and come 
into general use as slang through their appUcation to 
other matters. A word is condemned as technical 
when its meaning is not clear to those outside the 
group to whom it belongs, or when it carries some 
undesirable suggestion of the special interest to which 
it pertains. 

Foreign words, in their foreign forms, are some- 
times condemned as in bad taste where the user 
might have used the English equivalent but for his 
desire to display his knowledge, — such are entre nouSy 
kudos, in medias res, and many others. Phrases that 
have no exact English equivalent, such as tour de 
force, dolce far niente, savoir faire, blase, and some 
others, may be used v/ithout reproach if used dis- 
criminatingly. Sometimes an English word takes 
over the meaning of a corresponding foreign word, 
and may then be condemned as foreign usage until 
it is universally accepted in the new sense. Ante- 
cedents in the sense of previous history, and pro- 
nounced in the sense of strongly marked, have taken 
these meanings from the French antecedent and pro- 
nonce, respectively, and are now in good use in these 

It is easy for most of us to keep our speech free 
from words that are not in present or in national use, 
but with the large body of slang words that are not 
in reputable use the case is diflferent. In the first 
place, slang differs so little at times from legitimate 
speech; its metaphors are often almost identical, 


the difference being only that slang is intentionally 
humorous, grotesque, or in bad taste. The metaphor 
in the Latin word appreliend and the English catch on 
is exactly the same; from the Latin through the 
French we have assaulty and in slang we have jump 
on, in which the figure is almost identical. One 
may without reproach speak of some disturbing 
element as ''a jarring note," but if one says, of a 
note or anything else, ''wouldn't that jar you?" 
clearly he is using slang, although the metaphor is 
the same in either expression. The difference is in 
the intention with which the expression is used. 
When a slang expression is used with no intention of 
being humorous or in bad taste, it is not slang so far as 
the user is concerned, though the hearer or reader 
may feel it to be so. Whether the speaker has so 
little taste as to wish to use slang, or such ignorance 
as not to know he is using it, or so small a vocabulary 
that he cannot help it, is usually a matter of little 
importance to the hearer. It is all very well to use 
slang when it conveys exactly the impression one 
wishes to convey; in order to do so, one must know 
both slang and legitimate speech well enough to 
know exactly what each means to his hearers. 

A speaker who does not wish to use slang, but 
thinks he must because he has no other vocabulary, 
has no remedy but to learn English. If he keeps 
eyes and ears open, he will find that the slang expres- 
sion that has no equivalent in legitimate speech is 
rare indeed. By observing the speech of those who 
do not use slang, by reading, and by searching dic- 
tionaries for such slang expressions as are recorded, 


he will soon find the legitimate phrase for every 
slang phrase he uses. The genuine wish to acquire 
correct diction is the one real necessity. 

The person who uses slang because he has never 
heard any other form of speech, and does not know 
it is slang, has a somewhat harder problem, but the 
remedy is essentially the same: he must learn 
English. He usually first reahzes that his diction 
is faulty by coming in contact with those who speak 
more correctly. The moment he begins to see the 
difference between his speech and theirs, he begins 
to see what is slang and what is not. This knowl- 
edge may be extended as far as the learner has the 
perseverance to extend it, by means of observation, 
reading, and study. 

Many users of slang defend their practice on the 
ground that slang words ultimately come into good 
use, and may as well be accepted at one time as 
another. It is true that slang represents a living 
element in language, a real principle of life and 
growth. But it does not follow that every slang 
word or phrase will at last become a part of the lan- 
guage. Many slang words remain slang for cen- 
turies; booze y for example, meaning liquor, or to drink 
liquor, was slang before Shakespeare's time just as 
it is to-day. Large numbers of others fade and dis- 
appear after a brief vogue, — every slang dictionary 
is a museum of these withered metaphors. Many 
vulgar words never make their way into polite so- 
ciety because they are names for vulgar things. It 
may be good form, for example, to take a glass of 
wine after dinner, but drinking for the sake of getting 


drunk (boozing) is not freely spoken of except among 
those who do it. It is rather vulgar to talk much 
about money, especially the need of it, in polite 
society, and no slang terms are older than those 
which pertain to money. In using such words one 
is not helping the language to legitimate growth, but 
merely giving encouragement to its disreputable 
auxiUaries. In using words that are sure to disap- 
pear we give useless aid to a cause which is lost from 
the start. Some of these ephemeral words rise on 
waves of public interest in temporary things, and 
go down as quickly. Slang words and phrases that 
involve metaphors which are far-fetched, or unin- 
telligible, are not likely to last. The slang meaning 
of twenty'three, for example, is now nearly forgotten. 
Chestnut lasted longer, but is now seldom heard. 
No satisfactory explanation was ever offered for the 
meaning attached to these words. 

The most promising applicants for admission to 
good use are useful abbreviations. Of these we have 
accepted a number against which vigorous protest 
was made in their day, such as cab, cad, moby bits, con- 
sols^ — probably pup, pet, fad, and many others belong 
in this class. Similarly, we may some day accept 
auto, phone, and even zepp (Zeppelin), which are 
gaining in public favor. But usefulness and brevity 
do not always win acceptance; pants has long been 
on the outskirts of good use, but has never been 
admitted, nor has gent An expressive metaphor 
not far-fetched nor of obscure meaning may lose its 
suggestion of bad taste as soon as its glamour of 
novelty wears oflf ; after that, it has nothing to over- 


come but prejudice against its origin. Recalcitrant 
means primarily kicking back; kick was a sound 
metaphor for object in times of classic Rome. It is 
quite likely to prove acceptable to-day. So with 
fall down in the sense of to fail (as in '^The new re- 
porter fell down on his first assignment''), there is 
no vulgarity in the figure, its novelty has gone, and 
it finds itself daily in better company. Such ex- 
pressions as get by, slip one over, deliver the goods 
(while they are slangy enough at present) have no 
more innate vulgarity than cut in, try a fall, out of 
gear, play a lone hand, or many another that has 
received the sanction of good use. The question of 
their ultimate acceptance is solely a question of 
their usefulness. As an example of the phrase the 
vulgarity of which is likely to keep it outside the 
pale, one might cite chew the rag, which appears to 
have come into civil life from militarj'' circles. 
Words imitative or suggestive of sounds (onomato- 
poetic), and those which are mouth-filling, or pleas- 
ing to the ear, beginning as slang, sometimes prove 
acceptable. Such is the history of jabber and bam- 
boozle. But the fate of such words is difficult to 
forecast. Skeezicks and skedaddle (if they are ever 
used at all now) are still slang; teetotaler is colloquial. 
Piffle seems useful to those who are afraid of the 
French persiflage, — it has long been in the language, 
and has recently been revived as slang. It would 
seem to be as good a word as jabber. The limitation 
of all the words of this class is that they cannot be 
used except to carry a suggestion of humor or 


For the good of the language, it is well that a slang 
word should undergo a severe probation before it is 
admitted to good use, — for this reason, if for no other, 
our more or less instinctive opposition to slang should 
be encouraged. Still, there comes a time when 
further opposition to a phrase becomes old-fogyism. 
We feel this as we look back at Swift's opposition to 
mob and dtintcr, and some others on his list, or William 
Cullen Bryant's to competey employe, and certain 
others. But it is hard for any one who remembers 
an expression as a new-minted bit of slang ever to 
think of it as anything else. In 1899 the phrase 
up to (''It is up to you'') emerged from the haunts 
of the poker-players into the street, and it is difficult 
for those who remember its origin and early course 
to forget its vulgarity. But those who do not so re- 
member find it useful to-day even in dignified speech. 
Graft has a similar history, and so, to go farther 
back in time, have sweater and bleachers. When a 
word has been so far accepted by the rising genera- 
tion that they use it without consciousness that it 
ever had a taint of vulgarity or grotesqueness, it has 
withstood the severest test. The taint has shown 
itself not ineradicable, but such as evaporates with 
time. After that, if the word is useful, further as- 
saults of conservatism will grow weaker as the older 
generation dies out. 


The principle of precision, the exact expression of 
meaning, is very frequently involved in questions 


which arise as to the use of words. Shall we say, 
^'I live at Mill Valley/' or, ''I live in Mill Valley'7 
''I anticipated his arrival/' or, ''I expected his ar- 
rivaP'? ''You are at fault/' or, ''You are in fault''? 
All are grammatical; all are in good use; the choice 
in each case depends on which of the two we mean. 

The principle of precision as it applies to the 
choice of words is thus stated by Prof. A. S. Hill in 
his Principles of Rhetoric: ''Of two forms of expres- 
sion which may be used in the same sense, that one 
should be chosen which, in the case in hand, is sus- 
ceptible of but one interpretation. Observance of 
this rule tends to give to each word a meaning of its 

Any one who studies English words is soon im- 
pressed by the fact that there seem to be very few 
words, or pairs of words, that are in any strict sense 
synonymous. A group of so-called synonyms is 
usually a number of words of varying meanings 
shading off in all directions from the word around 
which they are grouped. In many cases, for or- 
dinary purposes of speech, one word in such a group 
is as good as another; it conveys the general mean- 
ing, which is all that is required of it. But when the 
question of choice comes up, the principle of precision 
is invoked to settle it, and the learner must study 
the shades of meaning that make the difference be- 
tween one word and another in the groups of 

For the most part, this is a mere matter of mem- 
ory, as most matters of language are. If the learner 
has some knowledge, though even a slight one, of 


other languages than his own, he will find it a help 
here. If he knows a little Latin, it will help him to 
diflferentiate discern^ discriminate, and distin- 
guish in so far as they may be set apart in the senses 
in which their meanings are most alike. He will see 
at a glance that eradicate means root out, and that 
eliminate meant originally to turn out of doors (over 
the threshold), and that any difference that may be 
made in them is based on the difference between 
these two figures of speech. Similarly if he knows 
a little Greek, French, or German — indeed any lan- 
guage living or dead, it will help him to a dis- 
criminating sense of the meaning of English words 
without recourse to the dictionary. It has been 
truly said that no one really knows English who 
knows no language but English. For even through 
all the changes in meaning which words undergo 
in centuries of use, the tendency of words of similar 
meaning to become identical through loose usage, 
and the opposite tendency, that of words originally 
identical to grow apart, — in spite of these and other 
forces that work in the meanings of words, and in 
spite, too, of the fact that nine-tenths of the users 
of them know nothing of the root meanings, words 
keep in their modem uses a haunting sense of their 

The Metaphors in Words 

If we could go back to the very beginnings of lan- 
guage we should find it a process of arbitrary asso- 
ciations of sounds with ideas. But after this orig- 
inal combination of a few primitive ideas with a few 


sound-symbols the process of language was one of re- 
combination of idea syllables into new figurative 
meanings. One of these original symbols in one 
family of languages (the Aryan) seems to have been 
dha, meaning to place or put It is represented in 
every European language to-day, in English by the 
word do. Even so simple a change of meaning as 
that from put to do involves a metaphor, — to put 
something somewhere is the commonest of all acts 
and so becomes the type of all action, doing. Thus 
nearly every word we use, if we trace it back ever so 
little, takes us to some figure of speech; assault means 
to jump atj disturb, to drive apart in disorder; fret 
means to eat aioay, — the list might be prolonged in- 
definitely. Of course most of our words, while 
historically they are metaphors, have lost to our 
minds all sense of their original figures. Many 
others are in transitional stages between one literal 
sense and another by way of figurative use. It is 
long since eradicate meant root out; still, if it is 
always used with that meaning in mind, it will be 
discriminatingly used. In so far as metaphor has 
any bearing on the use of words, the principle is that 
a word that has any trace of metaphor in its present 
significance should not be put to a use which is not 
in harmony with the metaphor. 

Thus caliber means the size of the bore of a gun. 
It may be used in anj^ figure in which the suggestion 
of firearms is not out of place. But the adjectives 
that may appropriately be applied to caliber are 
only those which would apply to the diameter of the 
bore of a gun. When the baseball reporter says, 



Smith in the box did work of high caliber/' he has 
abused the metaphor in the word. ^'My Alma 
Mater is a fine example of Gothic architecture," and 
''Shakespeare could have straightened out the weak 
points," show blunders' which the writer could not 
have committed if he had had the most elementary 
sense of the metaphors in the words he was using. 


Matthew Arnold places the sentence from the 
Book of Job, ''Doth Job fear God for nought?" be- 
side FrankHn's paraphravse, "Does your Majesty 
imagine that Job's good conduct is the effect of mere 
p>ersonal attachment and affection?" with the com- 
ment, "After all, there is a stretch of humanity 
beyond Franklin's victorious good sense!" Good 
sense, which Franklin usually had in abundance, is 
exactly the quality that guards us against any such 
"display of the verbal wardrobe" as this. The fault 
is a violation of the principle of simplicity in the use 
of words, the principle which directs us to use always 
the simplest and most direct word or phrase that 
exactly conveys the meaning Thus, "It has not 
life enough to keep it from rotting," conveys exactly 
the same idea as "It has not sufficient vitality to 
preserve it from putrefaction," and is preferable 
because it is the form into which six persons out of 
ten would have to translate the idea if they en- 
countered it in the second form. It is not that we 
always prefer Saxon words to Latin; if we did, we 
should say forthwith instead of immediately ^ weerp 


instead of expect, steadfast instead of firm, vritJistand 
instead of resist. We prefer simple words because 
they do not call the reader^s attention away from 
the idea, either by their gay colors or the clatter of 
their many syllables, their rarity, their bombast of 
sound or idea. On this principle, try is better than 
endeavor, begin is better than commence (except in 
special senses), better (as a verb) is preferable to 
ameliorate, about is better than anent, preparation is 
better than preparedness, foresight is better than fore- 
sightedness, give is better than donate, — and the list 
could be prolonged to almost any length. The prin- 
ciple of simplicity rests ultimately on good taste, — 
indeed, so do most of the principles that guide us in 
the use of words; with good taste and the genuine 
wish to speak with ease and correctness the learner 
cannot wander far from the direct path. 

Part II 


A or An. 

Correct use of a and an is entirely a matter of 
correct pronunciation. We use a before a word be- 
ginning with a consonant, and an before a word 
beginning with a vowel. In this rule aspirated h 
and the sound of consonant y, however indicated 
(as for example Europe), count as consonants. But 
a word beginning with either of these sounds in an 
unaccented syllable is commonly preceded by an in 
written speech, though orally a is commonly used 
in this position. Thus we write, a history, an his- 
torian, a habit, an habitual smoker, a unit, an united 

It may be that in practice we do not say ''an 
historian.'' Neither do we articulately say ''a his- 
torian." We open the teeth sUghtly and make an 
obscure vowel sound to represent both the a and the 
i, neglecting the h entirely, and make no articulation 
till we come to the s. The truth is that whether 
we use a or an we seldom pronounce h beginning an 
unstressed syllable. The rule given here is that 
given by both English and American authorities, 
but it fairly represents the American practice as seen 
by German eyes: 

Americans always pronounce their aitches in stressed 
or. accented syllables (except in a few old words of Latin 


origin, such as honesty honor, and hour) and they leave 
them out in unstressed syllables. In proAiftit, for in- 
stance, the h is pronounced; in pro(h)i6ition it is silent. 
In the sentence "(H)e (h)ad hid (h)is hand under (h)er 
hat,'' four of the aitches are ordinarily^ silent" (Schooch 
and Kron, The Little Yankee), 

That something like this is our practice, we admit 
by the formulation of our rule. If we condemn ^^an 
habitual smoker/' and '^an historian,'' as pedantic, 
we go a step further and acknowledge that, having 
dropped the /i, we drop the n also. This may be the 
practice of a majority of speakers in the United 
States, but are they the best speakers? 

A or an, like the, is repeated with two or more 
nouns in succession, when the nouns denote different 
persons or things. ^'They elected a president and a 
secretary," means that they elected two officers; 
'Hhey elected a president and secretary," indicates 
that one person filled both offices. 

A.B. or B.A.; A.M. or M.A. 

These forms may be used interchangeably to in- 
dicate respectively the degrees of Bachelor of Arts 
and Master of Arts. 


See Ad.y Etc, Esq., Hon., Mr., Mrs., and others. 

Ability and Capacity. 

Of these two, ability is the more inclusive term, 
including capacity. Ability implies active exercise of 

* In any ordinary speaking of this sentence, hid, hand, and hat 
would be stressed syllables. 


power, capacity may be more or less passive recep- 
tivity. One might have capacity for learning with- 
out ability to teach. 


This word, figuratively used, should not mean 
merely unsuccessful, but unsuccessful because pre- 
mature or immature. Examples are found, however, 
of its use to mean merely unsuccessful by some of the 
best English writers. Any one choosing to use it in 
this sense will find himself in good company, but 
without many companions. 

About and Around. 

About may be used for every sense of around^ but 
not vice versa. Around does not mean nearly , there- 
fore '' around a hundred'' is incorrect for ''about a 
hundred.'' Around in the sense of somewhere near 
is a colloquialism in the United States. Such phrases 
as be around, come around {somewhere near), some- 
where round, are purely colloquial. Round for 
around is good American usage. We say, ''enough 
to go round," "an all-round man," where British 
usage would demand around. 


The use of above in such expressions as "the above 
address" has been idiomatic in Enghsh since i^Jiglo- 
Saxon times. There is, however, a modern tendency 
to discourage the use of it in this sense. It may be 
easily avoided by employing such expressions as "the 
address given above," or "the foregoing paragraph." 


Accede and Concede. 

Accedcy in the only sense which could be confused 
with that of concede, means to assent, agree to. This 
meaning is derived from the primary one, join one- 
self y give one^s adhesion^ — "they acceded to his 
proposal/' Concede followed by that means admit 
or allow (a statement), grant (a right or privilege). 

Accept and Except. 

Confusion of these two words is usually merely a 
mistake or slip in spelling. Accept means to receive 
in various senses; except means to leave out. 

The Oxford Dictionary tells us that in all its mean- 
ings except the conrnaercial one, accept "is frequently 
followed by o/.'' The construction is not so fre- 
quent since the end of the eighteenth century as it 
was before that time. The modern tendency is 
against it; recent writers on language call the of 

Acceptance and Acceptation. 

In most senses these words are interchangeable. 
Acceptance is now the usual word in the sense of 
favorable reception , as, "the theory now meets with 
general acceptance." 



An accident is not a wound, but may be the cause 
of the wound; the overturning of the car is the 
accident, the consequent broken legs and fractured 
skulls are the wounds. To say, "I have not yet re- 
covered from the accident,'' or "Balm of Gilead 


will cure any accident," is to confuse cause and 


Where accord conveys the idea of giving, it means 
grant, bestoWy concede. To use it for ordinary mean- 
ings of give is (usually unduly) to magnify both the 
gift and the giver. It is especially unseemly when 
the giver is speaking. 

Accredit and Credit. 

In the sense of believe , use credity — ''I do not 
credit the rumor." In the sense of charge to an ac- 
count use credit. In the sense of ascribe or attribute 
to, use either word, — '^They credit (accredit) him 
with great thoughts." 

See Blame. 

See Friend. 


At best this is an abbreviation with a strong sug- 
gestion of slang. For any ordinary purpose the full 
form is better. Some such abbreviations have come 
into good use, as cab and mob; others, as pani^ and 
genty have never proved acceptable. Ad may in 
time be accepted, but it is not in good use at pres- 
ent. Auto and phone are on their way to acceptance, 
but still sound slangy and vulgar to fastidious ears, 
as did cab (from cabriolet) when the vehicle first 


appeared. (See also Photo,) Many such formations 
pass without challenge in college circles, but are 
slangy or unintelligible to those outside: such are 
exam for examination, dorvi for dormitory, math for 
mathematics, track for track athletics, polecon for 
poUtical economy, and many others. Indeed, most 
crafts, professions, and arts, have dialects of their 
own, half technical and half slang; many of which 
make their contributions in course of time to lan- 

Even legitimate abbreviations should be used 
sparingly; they often have a brusque appearance 
-hat suggests discourtesy. 


Adapt means ^Ho take over from one purpose to 
another, to make fit." With to or for it looks to the 
purpose or end, — ^'The car was a stock model 
adapted to racing.'' With from, it looks to the 
source, — '^The play was adapted from the French.'' 

Adjective forms used as adverbs. 
See Bad, 


To speak of administering a blow or a rebuke is a 
humorous extension of a figurative meaning of the 
word. It can hardly be said to be in good use. 
The word (in this sense) means to dispense or supply 
anything supposed to be beneficial to the recipient. It 
is properly used of medicine, oaths, extreme unction, 
and such matters. 



Admire with the infinitive, as, 

'^I think I should admire 

To sit and diiwdle over old 
Montaigne before the fire,'' 

is obsolete in good usage. In present usage it ap- 
pears only in dialect and jokes. 


In figurative senses in which admit means to allow 
a matter to enter into any relation to thought or action y 
as acknowledge^ concede, as, ^^We admit of no rivals 
in splendor,'' ^'The question does not admit of 
discussion," admit is followed by of. The phrase 
may possibly be elliptical for ''admit the existence 
of," at all events, it seems not to be used where 
some such expression would not apply. See Allow 
and Of. 


In such a sentence as ''He adopted a new course 
of action," adopt ought to mean, take over as one's 
own what was formerly another^ s. This sense has 
become weakened till the word is now legitimately 
used to mean merely to take as one's own. 

See Like. 


When advantage means a state of forwardness in 
comparison with others, advantages cannot logically 


be spoken of as equal. In the sense of benefit or 
improvementy — and this is now an accepted meaning 
of the word, — we mayspealv of ** equal advantages." 


** Again we were interrupted; this time by the 
advent of my trunk.'' The word is correctly used 
here if it is meant for a joke; an epoch-making 


This word is defined as, Easy of conversation or 
address; civil and courteous in receiving and respond- 
ing to the conversation and address of others, especially 
inferiors or equals. The tendency is to restrict the 
use of the word to the attitude of superiors to 

Affect and Effect. 

Affect means have an influence (or effect) on; ef- 
fect means to accomplish. We may affect a purpose 
by influencing (usually changing) it; or effect it by 
accomplishing or fulfilling it. We may affect (in- 
fluence) a man, but we cannot effect (accomplish) him. 

A few. 
See Few. 


The objection to afraid that used instead of fear 
that (''I'm afraid I can't go,") seems to be based on 
the theory that an adjective cannot take a dependent 
clause. The fact is, however, that the adjective 


is a part of the verb (''be afraid"), and has been 
felt to be so for centuries. The construction has 
long been good English, but it is easy to avoid it, 
and with it the faultfinding of the censorious, who 
condemn it as colloquial. 

Afterward and Afterwards. 

Afterward, like backward, downward, upward, in- 
ward, outward, and toward, may be used either with 
or without the final s. Onward does not take the s. 

Age, four years of. 
See Of. 


The modern tendency is against the use of this 
word to mean exasperate, although old writers show 
manj^ examples of its use in this sense, and in the 
sense of to irritate or inflame physically. Careful 
writers and speakers to-day apply it to conditions 
and diseases in the sense of to make worse. Thus 
we may aggravate a man's ill temper (make it worse) 
but not the man himself. 


The only distinction between ago and since that 
accords with the facts, is that ago looks from the 
present toward the past, whereas since looks from 
the past toward the present. This use is shown 
in such a sentence as '*I spent my last dollar three 
days ago, and haven't earned another since.'' When 
since is used in the sense of ago, it is probably ellip- 
tical for, ''I met him (it is now) three years since," 


or something of the sort. Either may be used to 
refer to a time only recently past, or long past. 


There is no authority for the use of agreeable as 
an adverb, as '' agreeable to your specifications.'' 
In accordance with, or agreeably withy would be correct. 

Agreeably disappointed. 
See Disappoint. 


This contraction is universally condemned. The 
proper contractions are: 


I'm not We're not 

You're not You^re not 

He's not (she's, it's) They're not 


[ ] Aren't we? 

Aren't you? Aren't you? 

Isn't he? (she, it) Aren't they? 

The temptation to use ''ain't" arises from the 
fact that there is no proper contraction in the inter- 
rogative first person singular. AinH, however, shows 
no signs of coming into good use. We must get 
along as best we can without it; usually the con- 
struction can be avoided. Instead of, ''I'm improv- 
ing, am I not?" we may say, "Don't you think I 
am improving?" See Aren't I. 


There is no defense possible for the vulgar use of 
ainH for hasnH and haven' tj as, ^^I ain't found no 
berries to-day/' '^They ain't seen us yet." When this 
is confused with have it is often pronounced haint. 


With alike, both is redundant. The use of the 
two together leads to such absurdities as, *'Nell 
and Ruth are both alike, especially Ruth." The 
logical absurdity of this sentence is not made de- 
fensible by the use of the construction in the Bible 
C^The darkness and the light are both alike to 
Thee"). This use of alike has become obsolete along 
with a number of others. 

All and Any. 

These words are sometimes misused after the 
comparative and superlative forms of adjectives. 
After a superlative use all; as, ^^best of all." After 
a comparative, use any followed by other ('^ finer 
than any other") to exclude the object from its 
own class; it cannot be finer than itself. 


All has many idiomatic and slangy uses, and 
uses of all shades between the two, many of which 
depend on its use in phrases as an intensive with a 
general idea of comprehensiveness, as in all-righteoiis, 
all-glorious. All at once and all of a sudden are 
idiomatic; that is, not according to rules of granmiar, 
but universally accepted as good English. All of a 
heap, to express astonishment or dismay, is accepted 


for colloquial use. All to the bad, and all to the good 
are still slangy. All in is still slang, but it may 
ultimately prove as acceptable as dead heat, now 
not often heard nor often censured. All right is 
idiomatic on this side of the Atlantic. If you wish 
to avoid it as an Americanism, use very well. Re- 
member, however, that alright is ''one of illiter- 
acy's most legible autographs'' (J. Erskine, Written 
English). All the same ma}'' be accepted as idiomatic, 
though it has a more colloquial flavor than never- 
iheless and none the less. All-round is acceptable in 
the United States for all-around. See About. 

Not is sometimes misplaced after all. ''All of us 
are not good," ought to mean, "All of us are bad," 
rather than, "Not all of us are good" ("Some of us 
are bad"). 

All with personal pronouns, jjou all, we all, etc., is 
Southern dialect usage in the United States. You 
all might be a useful form to distinguish the singular 
you from the plural, but it is no more acceptable 
than the others. All in its usual meaning may fol- 
low you in such sentences as "I want you all to 
come." See All of them. 

The phrase all over, which the purists say should 
be over all ("over all the city"), ought to need no 
special defense, for all is here used in one of its most 
common meanings, entirely, completely. The phrase 
in which all is an adjective, over all, is preferable 
only when one wants a more formal phrase. 

All the further for as far as ("This is all the further 
we can go,") is vulgar and indefensible. 

All togetJier should never be confused with alto- 


gether. In '^Here we are, all together at last!" 
altogether, which means entirely, would be meaning- 
less. There is no such word as alltogether. Compare 
already and all right. 

All of them. 

The o/in this phrase is sometimes called redundant, 
and such expressions as, *'I have all these," and, 
'^I have them all," are offered as substitutes. There 
are, however, constructions in which it seems diffi- 
cult to avoid the phrase with of, ''We all saw them 
all," is doubtless correct, but sounds awkward or 
provincial. All of them seems, too, to provide a dis- 
tributive sense C' every one of them") not found 
in the other constructions. It is a comparatively 
modern construction, formed probably by association 
with such expressions as, none of, some of, much ofy 
and the like. See Both of them. 

All ready and Already. 

The distinction between (1) all (i, e,, every one or 
completely) prepared and (2) in anticipation is some- 
times hardly to be made — e.g., ''The regiments al- 
ready in France." Where the distinction can be 
made: (1) is all ready; (2) is already. Where 1 
is clearly the meaning, already is obsolete. 


The sense in which the word is misused is, to 
assert as if able to prove (whether actually so able or 
not). In some such sense it was at one time 
freely used by newspapers as a sort of chann to 


ward off libel suits, and at last became a mere 
variant of ^'say/' Usually the meaning is carried 
better by say, assert, affirm, or declare. 


Allow is incorrectly used in the sense of say, as, 
''He allowed he was going to the village.'' It may 
be used to denote a reluctant admission, but not |' 
a voluntary assertion, as, ''He paid me, I will allow, 
very generously.'' 

Allow and Permit. 

A practice may be allowed tacitly or openly by 
absence of opposition; permission implies sanction 
and approval. 

Allow of. 

Allow is correctly used intransitively followed by 
o/, meaning admit of; ''The concrete had hardened 
enough to allow of the mold being removed." See . 
Admit and Of. 


One can allude to a thing only indirectly, as, 
''When he mentioned the white elephant, the 
speaker alluded to the purchase of the other mill." 
The word originally meant to play (upon words). 

Allusion and Illusion. 

Allusion means indirect mention; illusion means 
deception, or deceptive perception by the senses. The 
confusion between the two occurs only through 


Alma Mater. 

These words mean '^ fostering mother." As figu- 
ratively applied to schools, colleges, and universities, 
the phrase may easily become absurd, as, '^My pre- 
paratory alma materJ' It has now largely lost its 
original dignity and significance, and may well be 
avoided. See p. 14. 


This is one of a list of apparent plurals (see 
Amends, Eaves, Ethics, Riches, Mathematics, and the 
like) which commonly take plural verbs. 


Alone means unaccompanied; only means sole. 
Alone in the sense of only is now rare or obsolete. 
^'Nux vomica alone will cure him,'' means that 
nux vomica will cure him unaided and unmixed. 
'^Nux vomica only will cure him,'' means that noth- 
ing else can cure him. ^'Nux vomica will alone cure 
him," means the cure is the only service it will per- 
form. ''Nux vomica will cure him alone," means 
that it will not cure any one else. See also Only. 


Such an expression as, ''I'll be along," is an Amer- 
ican colloquialism. It usually means, "I will come 
soon," or, "I will follow after." 


With and, see And. 

Alternately, Alternative, Alternation. 

Alternative should mean a choice. "We had no 
alternative," should mean that we had no choice, 


that is, no other course. The meaning has, however, 
been more or less colloquially extended to mean a 
course of action, and is even applied to several (more 
than two) possibilities. But for the sake of pre- 
cision and avoidance of criticism it is well to re- 
strict the use of the word to the original meaning, 
a choice, and apply it to not more than two possi- 

Alternation means ^Hhe action of two things suc- 
ceeding each other by turns'' {Oxford Dictionary), 
It is erroneously used of changes involving more 
than two things. 

There is no sanction for the use of alternately as 
applied to the action of more than two things. 

Although, Though, While. 

Although and though are interchangeable in the 
sense of notwithstanding, in spite of the fact that. 
While {q. v.) means something different. 

See All. 

A.M.; P.M. 

Either capitals or small letters may be used for 
these abbreviations, though modern usage tends 
toward capitals. 

Amateur and Novice. 

An amateur is a lover of a pursuit, following it not 
for gain. A novice is a beginner. A novice may be a 
professional, not an amateur. An amateur may have 


followed the pursuit for a long time; may be any- 
thing but a novice. 


Objection to this word is based on the idea that it 
always carries a suggestion of pomposity. It means 
the same thing as improvey and the question may 
fairly be raised whether a sentence can be framed 
in which ameliorate is the better word. 


This is properly a singular form (see Eaves, 
Ethics J Riches, Mathematics, etc.) ''now always con- 
strued with a singular verb'' {Oxford Dictionary), 
The fact is, it is seldom used as the subject of a 
verb, and seldom with the article, though one quo- 
tation has been found which shows ''an amends." 
If we say, "The amends are sufficient," it might be 
technically incorrect, but would pass unchallenged. 
If we say, "The amends is sufficient," it would prob- 
ably be challenged, but could be defended. 

Amid and Amidst. 

The Oxford Dictionary says, "There is a tendency 
to use amidst more distributively than amid — e. g,, of 
things scattered about, or a thing moving in the 
midst of others." Similar forms are amongst, against, 
betwixt, whilst; with the exception of against these 
are scarcely to be distinguished in usage from the 
forms without the st. 

See A, 



A7id is a coordinating additive conjunction; that 
is, it may connect words, phrases, and clauses in the 
same construction (for example, two independent 
or two dependent clauses) without defining the re- 
lationship between them. It is misused by being 
made to do duty for hundreds of other connectives. 
It must serve for the adversative coordinating con- 
junctions (but, yet, however, nevertheless, and others) — 
*'He said he would go, and he didn't.'' It is forced 
into service for all the subordinating conjunctions, 
whether of time, place, cause, purpose, reason, con- 
sequence, means, method, supposition, possibility, 
apprehension, doubt, question, omission, exception, 
exclusion, comparison, equality, proportion, illus- 
tration, representation, as well as those introducing 
relative, conditional, and concessional clauses. Such 
a sentence as '4Ie came to the office, and got his 
book," might be intended to express the purpose, 
the cause, the consequence, the time, the place, 
the reason, of the action; no one could tell with 
certainty from the mere words which the speaker 

And is misused in this fashion in such phrases as 
'Hry and do it," '^come and see me," where it serves 
for to (^'try to do it"). This usage can be defended 
as idiomatic — that is, it is very old, and very wide- 
spread, but it is always colloquial, and always illog- 
ical. Certainly no one could be accused of over- 
precision who should always prefer the infinitive 
construction, ''come to see me." 

Both try and and come and are, of course, correct 


where purpose is not the main idea of the second 
clause, as, '^ Won't you come and join our game?'' 

An indefensible use of and is its use to connect an 
independent clause with a dependent clause, as in the 
sentence, ''It is a very useful tree, and which is 
found in every clime." If the second clause is de- 
pendent (subordinate), which is the proper connec- 
tive C' a useful tree, which is found"). If the second 
clause is independent, and is the right connective 
(''the tree is useful, and is found"). As the clause 
cannot be both independent and dependent, both 
connectives cannot be used. This is sometimes 
called the '^and which construction." It may usually 
be remedied by striking out the and. And is cor- 
rectly used to join two relative clauses, as, "I 
bought the dog which he told me of, and which he 
was going to buy." 

And is sometimes made to do duty for or, as, "A 
modern language like French and German." 

And is always superfluous before alsOy which means 
the same thing; and before therefore, consequently, 
and other words which are already connectives, and 
cannot be made any more definitely so by the pre- 
ceding and. 


This word cannot be used in prose or poetry with- 
out suggestion of affectation. Even metrically 
about is its exact equivalent. 


The modern tendency is to use vrith after angry 
rather than at. If there is any distinction it is that 


one is angry unih a person when the expression of 
the anger is indicated; angry at a person when the 
feeUng is denoted rather than the expression. 

Annual and Yearly. 

These words may be used without discrimination ; 
the best dictionaries use the one word to define the 

Answer and Reply. 

Answer, the purists tell us, should be distinguished 
from reply; but if the distinction has ever been 
made, it has never been made clear. We answer 
a charge, a letter, a question, a greeting, a door- 
bell, a shout. We reply to accusations, assertions, 
statements, arguments. We say, ''Your reply does 
not answer the question," but an answer need not 
always give satisfaction; it may be a sign of any 
kind, made in response to or achiowledgment of any 
signal. A reply, too, may be inarticulate: ''Their 
howitzers replied to our musketry fire." Answer 
meant originally something like "swear to," "a 
solenm affirmation made to rebut a charge." Reply 
in the beginning meant retort (fold or turn back). 
Each word has been spread over so wide a variety of 
meanings, and has encroached so broadly on the terri- 
tory of the other, that the confusion is now complete; 
all dictionaries give reply as one of the meanings of 
answer, and answer as one of the meanings of reply. 


This may now be considered good in use as mean- 
ing the events of a person^ s bygone history. In 1841 it 


was regarded as a French construction; in 1854 it 
was considered modern slang; ten years later it was 
used without apology by Cardinal Newman. 


Anticipate does not mean merely expect, but 
rather, experience beforehand, forecast, foretaste, take 
measures in advance of. One who expects a shower 
may anticipate it by carrying an umbrella. 


Anxious means primarily troubled or uneasy in 
mind about some uncertain event. It is properly 
used in infinitive constructions (anxious to do some- 
thing) only where eager anticipation is mingled with 
endeavor and a troubled mind as to the outcome of 
the endeavor. It is correct to say, ^'The Prince was 
anxious to take the fortress before it should be re- 
lieved," or, ^'I ran because I was anxious to catch 
the train." ''I was anxious to receive an invita- 
tion" is a misuse of the word because the state is 
passive, not one of endeavor, and the outcome is 
(probably) trivial. 


The adverbial use of any in the sense of at all, as, 
''She isn't working any," had better be avoided. 
It has been in constant but questionable use in such 
constructions for five centuries, but has not received 
the sanction of the best writers. 

For Of any see Of; Any good see Good. For All 
and any see All. 



Compounds formed with body are written as one 
word; those formed with one are written as two 
words. Words of both classes are construed with 
singular verbs and pronouns. "If this belongs to 
anybody present, let him claim it." "Everybody 
must show his ticket at the door.'' 


This word has frequently been condemned as 
colloquial. Perhap>s it has even yet a colloquial 
flavor, but it is certainly used to-day by careful 
writers. Acceptable substitutes are, in any man- 
ncTy in any evenly at any rale, be that cw it may. 

Any place. 

This needs a preposition if it is to be used as an 
adverbial phrase, — in any pUtcCy at any place. It is 
incorrect to say, "I could not find him any place," 
but correct to say, "I could not find him at (or in) 
any place" or "in any place I visited (or entered) 



As an adverbial conjunction meaning at any role, 
anyway is in reputable use in both England and the 
United States. It is somewhat less formal than at 
any rate, but there is Uttle to choose between them. 


This is provincial or illiterate as an adverbial 
conjunction meaning at all events. It is allowable as 
an adverb meaning in any way. It is incorrectly 


used in '^Well, anyways, I wouldn't go with him/' 
^^Nor was such interference anyways injurious'' 
(DeQuincey) is correct. 

A one. 
See One. 


The use of this word to denote that which appears 
and is not is given by the Oxford Dictionary, as, 
^'the commonest sense now, but treated as novel in 
1645." The objection to the use of the word in this 
sense would seem to be largely traditional. 


The distinction between appear and seem, to the 
effect that ''what seems is in the mind; what ap- 
pears is external," is purely theoretical. If the dis- 
tinction could be enforced it might be worth making 
for the sake of precision. 

Appertain and Pertain. 
These words are interchangeable in meaning. 


Primarily appreciate means to estimate aright; "I 
appreciate his ill-will," would mean that I do not 
underestimate it. This meaning has been extended 
to what is to-day its more general sense, to esteem 
adequately or highly. It may also mean to raise in 
value and to rise in value; these two meanings are 
said to have been long in use in the United States. 
''Appreciate in value" is, then, correct. 



"We apprehend many truths which we do not 
comprehend*' (Trench). Apprehend should not be 
used to mean merely to think, but rather "to under- 
stand (a thing to be so and so) ; to conceive, con- 
sider, view (it) as'' (Oxford Dictionary). "I appre- 
hend that I shall go to bed," would be absurd. 


The use of this word for address, memorialize, ap- 
peal to, or petition is condemned. It would seem to 
be allowable, however, in a figurative sense meaning 
to draw near with the idea of entering into personal 
relations, and so to begin more or less distantly on a 
subject. The figure may come from the use of the 
term in fortifications meaning to work forward toward 
by means of intrenchments. 

Approve of. 
See Of. 


Apt should be distinguished from likely and liable. 
Apt carries implication of fitness (calculated to, quick 
to, ready to). Likely carries implication of proba- 
bility. Liable carries implication of unpleasant or 
disastrous consequences. A man who is apt to 
learn is likely to succeed in his studies, and, possibly, 
liable to overwork. Liable to means subject to. 
Liable for means responsible for. "He is liable for 
the entire amount, and liable to imprisonment if he 
does not pay." Liable is now generally considered 


correct with the infinitive (liable to do), though some 
authorities still condemn it. 


In such expressions as "twice one are two'^ either 
the singular or the plural verb may be used. Usage 
is evenly divided. 

Aren't I. 

ArenH I for am I not is an ungrammatical collo- 
quialism said to be in better standing in England 
than in the United States. See AinH. 

See About. 

Arrived safe. 

"/ arrived safe^^ is correct as meaning "I was safe 
when I arrived.'^ '^I arrived safely'^ would mean "I 
arrived in a safe manner.^' Each is correct for the 
idea it conveys. 

Article, repetition of. 
See A. 


Strictly, an artist is any one who practises one or 
more of the fine arts. The word is widely used to 
distinguish one who practises a pictorial art (painter) 
from one who applies paint to surfaces without art. 
Improperly, colloquially, jocosely, or hyperbolically, 
it is used of an artisan or craftsman, as a barber, a 
cook, a tailor, a bootblack. 



As has sometimes been called a 'tricky" word. 
This is because it has so many different uses and 
meanings (the Oxford Dictionary distinguishes no 
less than forty-one) that there is scarcely a use one 
can put it to in which it cannot be misinterpreted. 
Only the commoner errors in its use need be dis- 
cussed here. 

There is no sanction for the use of as in such ex- 
pressions as, **I don't know as I shall/' ''Not as I 
know of." These should, of course, be, ''I don't 
know that I shall," ''Not that I know." Some dia- 
lects expand it to as how, — "He said as how he 
wouldn't go." 

So stands as the correlative of as usually in 
negative constructions, — "Not so black as he is 
painted," "Hardly so good as one could wish." 
Modern usage tends to make this use obligatory. 
It is used in certain affirmative constructions, such 
as, "To call it by so harsh a name as treason," "To 
spurn a heart so full of love as mine," "It was a quiet 
life for a time so full of turmoil as his." It has been 
pointed out that the negative construction is, in a 
sense, not a comparison, in that it is always a com- 
parison (or contrast) of unequals. The affirmative 
constructions, too, are not true comparisons; they 
merely suggest comparison in order to lay emphasis 
on some quality or quantity, as does the colloquial 
so without aSy — "I am so glad!" Note that to use 
OS would be incorrect only in that it would change 
the meaning; "To spurn a heart so full of love as 
mine," means "To spurn my heart, full of love as it 


is." ''To spurn a heart as full of love as mine/' 
means ''To spurn any heart (not necessarily mine) 
that is as full of love as mine is.'' Thus we might 
formulate the rule: use so correlative with as in 
constructions which are comparisons in form, but 
which really express contrast or emphasis. 

The second as in these comparative constructions is 
sometimes felt to have the force of a preposition, and 
is made to take a direct object in the objective (ac- 
cusative) case, as, "I am as good as him.'' If the 
sentence is given its full form, it becomes apparent 
that the pronoun should be in the nominative : " I am 
as good as he (is) , " " I went as far as he (went) . " The 
pronoun should be in the nominative case because it 
is the subject of the verb which is not expressed. 

Like and as are most frequently misused in sen- 
tences expressing comparison which take such forms 
as "Try to do it as I do" and "Act like me." The 
rule is a simple one; where the sentence has two 
finite verbs the comparison, containing the second 
verb, should be introduced by as, — as I do. Where 
the comparison is with a substantive, use like^ — like 
me. Like in such constructions is an adverbial 
preposition, and me is its object (see Like). It can- 
not be made to act as a conjunction connecting the 
two clauses of the sentence (try to do it and / do). 
As is a conjunction, and is properly used to connect 
clauses. Note that the nominative case (he) follows 
as, as the subject of the following verb expressed or 
understood; whereas the objective case follows like 
(like him), from the effect of the prepositional force 
of like. 


As should be distinguished from because in intro- 
ducing clauses of reason. In this construction, as 
means irwLsrrmch cw, in consideration of the fact that. 
'*As I was hungry, I ate a hearty dinner," is incor- 
rect because it is not in consideration of the fact that 
he is hungry, but because he is hungry, that the 
speaker eats heartily. *'I thought I might as well 
go on, as I had already gone so far,'' is correct. 

As though has been challenged on the ground that 
it is illogical; if the supposed ellipsis is filled in, — 
*'as (it would be) though — '' the phrase means 
nearly the opposite of ''as (it would be) if — .'' 
Logical or not, the phrase has been continuously in 
good use for at least six centuries, and shows no 
signs of going out of favor. 

As if is always followed by the subjunctive. The 
choice between indicative and subjunctive in Eng- 
lish nearly always depends on the degree of remote- 
ness from actuality to be implied or expressed. As 
if always expresses remoteness from actuality ; there- 
fore it always takes the subjunctive. On similar 
grounds, the expression be that as it will is always 
incorrect; it should always be be that as it may. 

As long as is a legitimate phrase, though a figura- 
tive use of the words, in the sense of inasmuch as. 
Logical or not, it is an established idiom. As, how- 
ever, is shorter and means the same. 

As to is frequently redundant before whether. 
''I asked him as to whether he was coming,'' ought 
to mean ''I made general inquiries covering the 
whole question whether he was coming." As com- 
monly used, it means no more than ''I asked him 


whether he was coining." ''The discussion was 
held to one point: as to whether the club should 
join the national organization/' is correct. 

As follows is idiomatic, be the subsequent matter 
singular or plural. ''The articles of the warrant are 
as follow/' is correct, but over-scrupulous. 

As should not be omitted after regard, — "I do 
not regard that necessary." Here, perhaps, the 
error is confusion of regard with consider, which does 
not require as. 

As should not be made to stand for siich as: 
"There were old-fashioned mantelpieces, too, as we 
have at home." 

Ask of. 
See Of. 

Assurance and Insurance. 

Assurance is the older term and is still correct, but 
modern American usage prefers insurance. 


At is idiomatic in various adverbial phrases which 
would logically call for by or in, as, at auction, at 
nighty at home, at rest. 

Whether we say a person lives at or lives in a given 
town or city depends on whether we think of his 
location as at a point or in a recognizable area. 
Ordinarily we speak of a man as living at a certain 
village, or in a certain city. When we speak of living 
in the village, we are thinking of it as an area rather 
than as a mere location or point. 


At all. 

At all has been condemned as superfluous in such 
sentences as, ** There is no use at all in your going/' 
"I do not know him at all." Here it clearly means 
whatever, or, to any extent, and in this sense is idio- 
matic, — perhaps shghtly colloquial. 

At best. 

At best for at the best has, perhaps, not been in good 
use so long as at least, but it is old enough to be 

At dinner. 

We have guests (or company) at dinner; roast beef 
for dinner. If we say, '*We had the minister for 
dinner Sunday,'' we acknowledge ourselves cannibals. 

At fault. 
See Fault. 

At least. 

At least should ordinarily stand immediately be- 
fore the word or phrase which it limits. In case 
there can be no ambiguity it may immediately fol- 
low the word or phrase which it hmits. ''The 
Bostonians at least speak with precision" (whatever 
else they may do in less careful manner). ''At least 
the Bostonians speak with precision" (others are 
careless). "It will satisfy John at least" (whatever 
its effect on others). 

The use of at least may be defined by commas: 
"For me, at least this will serve" (this if nothing 


more). ^'For me, at least, this will serve" (for me 
if for no one else). See also Only. 

At length. 

At length should be used to denote some degree of 
continuance; at last, to denote finality or comple- 
tion. ''At length we grew weary of our journey, 
but at last reached the city." 

At that. 

At that appended for emphasis to the last clause 
of a sentence C'A good suit, and cheap at that") 
receives no further condemnation from the Oxford 
Dictionary than the statement that it was originally 
American slang, and probably sprang from some 
such expression as ''cheap at that (price)." It is 
condemned by some American authorities as vulgar. 
As often as not it is a useless appendix that will 
bear excision. 


An audience is, properly speaking, an assembly 
that has come to hear something. Spectators as- 
semble to see something. The crowd is a highly col- 
loquial term for either sort of assembly. See also 


Authentic means possessing authority; genuine 
means not counterfeit. The two words should be 
distinguished except when the supposed counterfeit 
is so because it assumes authority which it has not. 



Authoress, poetess, and the like, are awkward and 
nearly useless forms. Such tenns as author and 
poet may be used without distinction of sex. 


At^nge differs from revenge in that it has in it more 
of the idea of justice, pubhc or private. One avenges 
another or oneself by way of retributive punishment. 
One revenges oneself on another by mflicting counter- 
injury justly or unjustly. 


Averse may be used correctly with either to or from. 
The modem tendency is said to be toward to both 
in England and the United States. 


This word properly means a minor or secondary 
occupation. To apply it to one's ordinary occupa- 
tion is to use it improperly. 

See Wake. 


Awful does not mean v^ly or disagreeable (''Isn't 
it awful?'')- Awfully does not mean very (''I am 
awfully glad"). Though in speech the terms are 
universally used in these senses, they are universally 
condenmed as symptoms of deficient vocabulary. 
In the popular sense, horrid is an exact synonym of 
awful, in so far as either has any exact sense. 


Ay and Aye. 

Ay (pronounced '^eye'O means yes, as in the 
familiar phrase, ^^The ayes have it.'' Aye rhymes 
with hay and means ever or always. 



Be back C' I'll be back in half an hour") is allowable 
to denote the state of having returned rather than 
the act of returning. Back from is said to be collo- 
quial; but it is difficult to see how, if we are to 
use back with verbs of motion, or with verbs like 
get and be, we can otherwise indicate the point of 

Back of, meaning behind, is an Americanism, and 
though it is in fairly good use in the United States 
it is well to avoid it since it leads to such barbarisms 
as side of and in back of. Behind always supplies the 
same meaning. 

See Afterward. 


After verbs signifying to look, seem, appear, feel, 
taste, smell, sound, and the like the adjective is used 
instead of the adverb. ^^You look bad" is correct 
unless the meaning is '^You perform badly the act 
of looking." Feel badly is often used when the 
trouble is physical, and feel bad when it is mental. 

The use of bad in the sense of ill is at best highly 


colloquial; in the sense of severe^ as, '*a bad cold/' 
it is more nearly admissible. Badly does not mean 
very much, as in the sentence, "I want it badly." 
See "also Worse. 

Bad grammar. 

The expression bad grammar is, strictly speaking, 
a logical absurdity when used to mean ungrammatical 
or an ungrammatical construction. 


Bade is the preterit tense of the verb to bid; hidden 
is the past participle. 


Balance in the sense of the remainder, the rest, is a 
piece of American commercial slang. Its proper 
conunercial meaning is, 'Hhe difference between the 
two sides of an account, or between two accounts.'' 


Originally a corruption of baluster, but now in good 

Bathos and Pathos. 

Bathos means a ludicrous descent from the elevated 
to the commonplace. Pathos is the quality that excites 
pity or sadness. 


See 7s, Was, and other forms of the verb, also 
Been to and Were best. 



Beat in the sense of defeat in battle or in any sort 
of contest has been idiomatic in EngUsh for nearly 
j&ve centuries. For dead beat see all in (under All). 


Because should not be used instead of that to 
introduce a predicate substantive clause giving a 
reason. '^The reason was that I didn't have enough 

See As and Since. 

Because of. 

Because of is an adverbial modifier; due to is an 
adjective modifier. '^The disturbance is due to the 
discontent of the people; the people are discontented 
because of high taxes.'' 

Been to. 

The Oxford Dictionary says that the verb to be was 
used ^idiomatically in past, now only in perfect 
and pluperfect tenses with to and a substantive or 
infinitive of purpose." ('^I have already been to the 
museum." ^^I had been to see Salvini.") In the 
seventeenth century we find such constructions with 
the preterit: ^^I was yesterday to wait upon Sir 
Herbert Croft" (Howell, Letters, 1645). This is now 

Beg to. 

Beg to (or that) for beg leave to (or that) is good 
idiomatic English. 



Begin is preferable to covivn iicc as applied to any 
but large or important underiakings. One who 
commencea his dmner would seem to overestimate the 
importance of the dinner. See section on Sintr 
plicity, p. 14. 

Began is the preterit tense of the verb begin; 
begun is the past participle. ''I began my work 
before he had begun to think of his." See also 


Careless speakers often fail to make the distinc- 
tion between on behalf o/, which means in the name of, 
as representative of, and in behalf o/, which means 
for the benefit of. ''On behalf of Mr. Smith, who was 
absent, Mr. Jones asked for a stay of the proceed- 
ings." ''He asked for contributions in behalf of the 


See Is bevng. 


This word seems to be of American origin, but is 
now in good use on both sides of the Atlantic, mean- 
ing to make small, depreciate, disparage. 


Belong in absolute sense not followed by a prepo- 
sition, as, "Do you belong?" meaning are you a 
member, is incorrect. 



Beneficent means doing good and is to be distin- 
guished from benevolent, which means well-wishing. 

Beside and Besides. 

Modern usage tends to distinguish between these 
two, using beside to mean at the side of or near by: 
and besides to mean in addition, moreover, otherwise, 
else. ^^ There could not have been any one beside 
me, for there was no one in the house besides me." 
The two may, however, be correctly used as inter- 
changeable in many senses. We may say ' ' and many 
more beside/' but we do not say ^^he sat besides me.'' 


See At best. 


This word has been in good use since the fourteenth 
century as meaning beset by (enemies, fears, dangers, 
and the like). 


The use of better to mean more, in such expressions 
as "Worth twenty pounds and better," is set down 
as colloquial by some grammarians, but not as a 
rule by the dictionary-makers. It is very old usage; 
the phrase quoted above goes back to 1587. 


The use of between as distinguished from among 
cannot be determined solely on the basis of the 


number of objects involved. The Oxford Diction- 
ary says of between: **It is still the only word 
available to express the relation of a thing to many 
surrounding things severally and individually, among 
expressing a relation to them collectively and 
vaguely: we should not say, 'The space lying among 
the three points' or 'a treaty among the three 
powers' ... or Ho insert a needle among the closed 
petals of a flower.' " 

Such an expression as ''between every row" is 
illogical, but is so conamon in every-day speech as to 
be ahnost idiomatic. 

Beware of. 
See Of. 


Modem difficulties in meanings and forms of bid 
come from the fact that in Anglo-Saxon there were 
two distinct verbs more similar in form than in 
meaning, which in English were hopelessly confused 
by the middle of the sixteenth century. It is per- 
haps enough to say that bid as a preterit is now 
commonly used only when the word is used in such 
expressions as bid at an auction, bid for patronage, 
and the like. In the sense of commanded, "He bid 
the servant show me the door," we nowadays prefer 


Blame it on for accuse is provincial or at best 
highly colloquial. A somewhat similar use of the 


word blame, now nearly obsolete, is shown in the 
sentence, ^*He is blamed of avarice.'' 


See '^Guiding Principles/' p. 10. 


American dictionaries accept the phrase bluff off 
(^^Not to bluff her off,— let her talk on") as if it 
came from the adjective bluff j meaning rough and 
hearty, defining it as to repel or deter by a bold, 
confident manner. At the same time they con- 
demn the word in the ordinary modern sense, to 
impose upon in various ways, as colloquial or slang. 
The Oxford Dictionary gives the word in its modern 
sense without stigma, and shows that it was used 
usually with quotation marks before 1890, and for 
the most part without them since that time. It 
seems to have meant first (in the eighteenth century) 
a horse's blinder, next to hoodwink, to offer an excuse. 
Then it became the name of a game of cards, whence 
it came into slang use as meaning to impose upon by 
giving a false idea of oriels resources. It has still a 
certain colloquial flavor, but is widely used without 


As a noun or verb denoting sudden activity, boom 
is a word of American origin. It might need some 
explanation or apology in England, but in the United 
States it has no restriction except its strong sugges- 
tion of business or politics. 



See ** Guiding Principles," p. 7. As a noun or 
verb meaning drinky bous or bo2ise was in good use 
in the fourteenth century, but it was slang in the 
seventeenth century, and has been so ever since. 


Boss is still colloquial in the United States as 
meaning an overseer, superintendent , or manager, but 
is used without apology in the special sense of a 
more or less disreputable political leader. 


Both is redundant in such a sentence as ^'They both 
resemble each other.'' It seems redundant also in 
the sentence, ^'He performed the duties both of the 
president and the secretary.'' This, however, is 
probably elliptical for ^'He performs the duties of 
both officers, namely, the president and the secre- 

The use of both has always been extended to more 
than two objects. ^^To whom both heaven and 
earth and sea is seen" (Chaucer). '^He prayeth 
well who loveth well, both man and bird and beast" 

Both . . . and should be so placed in the sentence 
that there can be no doubt as to the meaning. '^ We 
are better equipped now both with regard to money 
and suppUes," is incorrect because it correlates uriih 
regard to and supplies. It probably means, ''We 
are better equipped now with regard to both money 
and supplies," but might mean, ''We are better 


equipped now both with regard to money and in 
the matter of suppUes/' See Not only . . . but also. 

Both of them. 

No one, not even the most careful speaker, need 
avoid this phrase. See All of them. 


We have confusion among certain meanings of 
bound because of its double origin, — or rather from 
the fact that it represents two differents words, the 
past tense and participle of the verb to bind, and 
also the obsolete verb boun, get ready (^^Busk ye and 
boun ye, my merry men all'')- This survives in a 
derived meaning, having one^s course directed, as of 
ships '^ bound for Australia,'^ or of persons '^ bound 
for a day's pleasure.'' Thus destined in the sense 
of directed to a certain destination, is a legitimate 
meaning of bound from boun, but the dictionaries tell 
us that bound meaning destined in the sense of fated 
or foredoomed, as in bound to fail, is colloquial usage. 
The distinction between the two senses of destined, 
however, is not one that the unlettered public could 
be expected to make. Add to this the sense of firm 
adhesion coming from the other verb, to bind, so eas- 
ily applicable to the continuance of a ship on her 
course, and the meanings certain to, and destined 
seem inevitable for bound, though the dictionaries 
still record both as colloquial. If we wish to avoid 
the censure of those who talk by the dictionary, we 
may, then, confine bound in these meanings to col- 
loquial use. 



This word means primarily graxdousUj Uberalf gen- 
erous. A careful speaker or writer will distinguish 
it from abundant and plentiful. 


See Childlike. 


Brand-new is the older form (probably meaning 
''new as a brand out of the fire/' compare ^re-neuO, 
but bran-new is the commoner fonn to-day. Some 
grammarians condemn both forms as colloquial, but 
the expression is an old and well-established phrase 
that is hkely to hold its place. 

Brethren. ^ 

This is a plural of brotJier used almost entirely 
to-daj'' in a figurative sense, as of the members of a 
church or a fraternity. Brothers can be used in 
either a literal or a figurative sense. Compare 77ieitle 
and metal, originally the same word, one spelling 
of which {mettle) is now restricted to the figurative 
sense, the other to the literal. 


Bring means to cause to come along with oneself; 
the motion is supposed to be toward the place where 
one already is. Take implies motion away from. 
Fetch means go and bring back. 

Carry has no impUcation of either location or di- 
rection, but denotes merely conveyance. 



Bug is not the exact equivalent of insect. In so 
far as it is in good use it applies chiefly to beetles, 
grubs, and larvse. It is an old word now become 
largely provincial, especially in the United States. 


Bulk has been in good use as meaning the greater 
part (^Hhe bulk of his fortune'') nearly as long as 
it has been in use in any sense in English. 


Writers on the use of words are fond of quoting the 
following illustration of the use of various collective 
nouns. They uniformly omit to name the author: 

A flock of girls is called a bevy; a bevy of wolves a 
pack; a pack of thieves a gang; a gang of angels a host; 
a host of porpoises a shoal; a shoal of buffalo a herd; a 
herd of children a troop; a troop of partridges a covey; 
a covey of beauties a galaxy; a galaxy of ruffians a horde; 
a horde of rubbish a heap; a heap of oxen a drove; a 
drove of blackguards a mob; a mob of whales a school; 
a school of worshipers a congregation; a congregation 
of engineers a corps; a corps of robbers a band; a band of 
locusts a swarm; a swarm of people a crowd. 

Current American idiom simplifies all this; the 
word bunch covers everything. It was perhaps 
originally the cow-punchers' term for a flock or herd 
of any size, ''a bunch of steers," by them slangily 
extended to other things, and now in national but 
by no means reputable use. It fits everything so 


easily that ii ins notiiing well, but its convenience 
as obviating the necessity of selection may lead to 
its ultimate acceptance. At present it is not heard 
on the lips of the fastidious. 


This word was formed jocosely, as if the noun 
burglar came from a verb to burgle. W. S. Gilbert 
gave it currency in the song in ''The Pirates of 

When the enterprising burglar^s not a-burgling, 
And the cutthroat isn't occupied in crime, 

He loves to hear the little brook a-gurgling, 
And listen to the merry linnet's chime. 

Burglarize is also condemned as a useless invention 
of newspaper writers. Rob is better. 


But is misused nearly as much as andy and for 
nearly the same reason; the two are the only con- 
nectives found in the most limited vocabularies, 
where they must do duty for all the others. See And. 

But is sometimes misused for and. ''Poor but 
honest" implies that it is unusual to find one who is 
poor and honest. In such phrases there is danger 
in the implication; what does "old but respectable" 
or "homely but kind" mean? 

The misuse of but for and arises from the lack of 
clear thinking. Other difficulties arise from a real 
confusion among the different meanings of the word, 


and a lack of any definite boundary between gram- 
mar and idiom in some of its uses. The facts may 
be stated briefly: 

In negative constructions after doubt and many 
similar verbs, either but or but that may be used; 
modern usage tends toward but as more logical; 
but that, however, is idiomatic. Thus we say, '^I 
do not doubt but (or but that) he will come." 
Similar constructions occur with verbs of fearing, 
with despair, make no question, scruple, and the 
like; after not say, think, conceive, conclude, believe y 
know, see, be sure, persuade, and the like; and a 
variety of other constructions more easily exempli- 
fied than described, as, ^'It never rains but (that) 
it pours,'' '^No lane so long but (that) it has its 
turning,'' and others. 

In all these constructions but what is incorrect. 
But what means except that which, and is correctly 
used in the sentence ^^I escaped with nothing but 
what I had on." 

The pronoun following but may be either accusa- 
tive or nominative in case, according as one thinks 
of it as the object of but (as a preposition) or the sub- 
ject of the following verb (introduced by but as an 
adversative connective). Thus we may say, ''There 
is no one at home but me," in which me is the 
object of the preposition but, meaning except Or 
we may say, ''There is no one at home but I (am at 
home)." Modern usage prefers "but me" as more 
logical, and the famous lines from/'Oasabianca," 
about which argument has crackled as fiercely as 
ever the flames did about the devoted boy, are now 


usually written, ''Whence all but him had fled/' 
however Mrs. Hemans may have written them. 

There the case may rest except for those readers 
who wish, either as an aid to memory or as a salve 
to curiosity, for a discussion of the principles in- 

But comes from the Anglo-Saxon be-utan, vnth-outy 
on the outside of. This meaning survives in the 
Scotch hut and hen, outside and inside (rooms of a 
cottage). Next it comes to mean except (as without 
sometimes does colloquially or in dialect). It be- 
comes a negative relative in certain negative and 
interrogative constructions, and with certain nega- 
tive and interrogative verbs, meaning that . . . not, or 
who . . . not. It is an adversative conjunction, in- 
troducing a statement contrary to, or contrasting 
with, the preceding one. It has many shades of 
meaning, and many uses, but these are the ones 
from which the difficult cases arise. 

The confusion in such constructions as ''all but 
him" is the confusion between the prepositional hut 
and the adversative conjunction. It comes the 
more easily from the fact that with words other than 
inflected pronouns we are not conscious of the case 
of the noun, as, "Everybody but John went home.'' 
Again, the vulgar use of the accusative pronouns for 
the nominative ("Me and him went") makes it un- 
certain whether everybody hut me is not a vulgar 
error when in such a sentence as "Everybody else 
went, but I stayed" it is rightly (as a conjunction) 
followed by the nominative. 

More difficult constructions to analyze are thoee 


in which but has the force of a negative relative, that 
. . . not. '^ There is scarce a field hereabouts but 
grows them" means '^ There is scarce a field here- 
abouts that grows them not." It is because of this 
negative force of but that it is incorrectly used in 
certain constructions in which two negatives are 
used to make an affirmative, as not improbable, not 
impossible y and the like. ''It is not impossible but 
that I may" is incorrect because with the two nega- 
tives already in the construction, the additional one 
in but makes confusion. With one negative, but 
makes an affirmative; ''I doubt not but he will 
come" means ''I trust he will come." Now when 
the grammarian tells us dogmatically that ^^but is 
always superfluous when used with doubt, ^^ the learner 
is sometimes silenced, but not convinced; he feels 
that there is a difference between ''I do not doubt 
that he will come" and ''I do not doubt but that 
he will come." There is a difference, not in meaning, 
but in the way the meaning is conveyed. ''I do 
not doubt that he will come" expresses certainty by 
doubting the contrary; ''I might doubt if you told 
me that he would not come, but not if you tell me 
that he mM." ''I do not doubt but that he will 
come" expresses the affirmative by a double nega- 
tive {but meaning that . . . not); ''I do not doubt 
that he will not come; on the contrary, I am sure 
he will." 


''By returning it to this address," reads the ad- 
vertisement, "the finder will be suitably rewarded." 


Not unless virtue is its own reward. The advertiser 
means, *'If the finder will return it — ." The act of 
returning is not the reward held out. 

By used with names (^'a man by the name of 
Jones '0 is ordinarily the same as of ('^a man of the 
name of Jones'')- If there is any difference, hy 
indicates the name we know him by or the name he 
^'goes by/' whether it is really his name or not, — 
''A man of the name of Rabinowitch who goes by 
the name of Robinson." 

By cannot be made to serve for according to, ''By 
the theory of poetry just given, immediate pleasure 
must be given.'' The writer meant, ''According to 
the theory just explained, poetry must give imme- 
diate pleasure." 

By and with are both used after passive verbs, hy 
usually to denote the agent or doer, wiih to denote 
means or instrument, — "It was made with a chisel 
by the carpenter." Where agent and instrument 
are not clearly distinguished, we use by; as, "goes 
by electricity," "heated by steam," "struck by 
lightning," "overturned by the wind." 

Bye is a variant spelling of hy except in good-hye, 
which is supposed to be a contraction of "God be 
with you (or ye)," Bye meaning by is now rare or 



Calculate should not be used for expect or opine. 
It is in this sense an American provincialism. 

Calculate is correctly used in the sense of devised 


with forethought for a purpose^ fitted, likely to, most 
commonly in the past participle calculated. Some 
objection to this has been made of late, but it has 
been considered good from Defoe's time to our own. 


Caliber is the diameter of the bore of a gun. If 
applied figuratively to other things the original 
meaning should be kept in one's mind. Such an 
expression as ''These poems are of high caliber" is 
palpably absurd. 

Call down. 

This phrase may be said to have passed from 
slang to colloquial usage; it is probably on its way 
to universal acceptance. The language would seem 
to be well equipped without it, for we have admonish, 
blame, censure, chide, condemn, expostulate with, find 
fault with, reprimand, reproach, take to task, upbraid, 
rebuke, expressing many shades of meaning. But 
call down usually means take to task or call to account, 
and is shorter than either. 

Came near. 

Came near for almost, as, ''He came near to missing 
his train," is perhaps idiomatic, but has a highly 
colloquial flavor. 


The principal distinction between can and may is 
too often disregarded in speech. "May I go?" is, 
of course, the correct form for asking permission. 
"Can I go?" raises the question of ability or pos- 


sibility. Can is perhaps correctly used in inquiring 
for a person on whom one is calling (^^Can I see 
him?'') where the question is really one of possibility, 
— not, to be sure, a question of the speaker's eye- 
sight, but of the other man's engagements. 

Cannot but. 

We are told that such an expression as ''I cannot 
but think," meaning, '^I must think," is illogical; 
''I can but think" means ''I must think," therefore 
''I cannot but think" must mean the opposite. If 
the phrase is illogical it certainly is idiomatic. So 
is ^'I cannot help but think," which is often con- 
demned as a confusion of ^'I can but think," and ^^I 
cannot help thinking." All three expressions are 
probably elliptical; as: 

I can (do naught) but think. 

I cannot (do aught) but think. 

I cannot help (thinking) but (I must) think. 
If so, one is no more logical or illogical than another. 
The simplest way is to accept them all as idioms. 


Can't hardly. 

Hardly, scarcely, and similar words often have the 
force of negatives. ^'I can hardly do it" means ''I 
can do it only with difficulty, if at all." Can't hardly 
is not in good use, probably because it would be 
ambiguous. '^I cannot do it with difficulty" might, 
if it meant anything, mean either '^I can do it with- 
out difficulty" or '^I cannot do it at all." 

Can't seem. 
See Seem. 



Capacious does not mean merely largcy but large 
with reference to holding or carrying. A hole in the 
ground might be described as capacious; a hole in 
a pocket or bag would be properly described as 
large or wide. 


The use of this word to mean the heading of a 
chapter or newspaper article is set down as an Amer- 
icanism. The word is in good use in this sense in 
the United States. 

See Bring. 


Casket for coffin is an Americanism. It is now 
in fairly good use, but open to objection according to 
the principle of simplicity. See p. 14. 


We should distinguish carefully, both by eye and by 
ear, between this word and casuality {casuxilness) and 
causality (law of causation). Casualty is almost 
synonymous with accident, except that it applies to 
more serious occurrences. A casualty, like an acci- 
dent, happens without intention and implies in addi- 
tion an element of fate or chance. Unlike the acci- 
dent, the casualty has no assignable cause. 


Catch in the sense of reach or overtake, as, "catch 
a train," is modern, but now widely accepted. Catch 


on meaning grasp or understand (cf . appreJiend) met 
with some acceptance in dignified use in England, 
but has nearly disappeared here. 


This word is now accepted as meaning a burial- 
ground, but is obsolete as meaning a churchyard. 


Center is now widely used for middle, and applied 
to a line instead of a point; as, ^'The center aisle/' 
The distinction between center and middle is worth 
making, however, for the sake of precision. 


Certain as an adverb instead of certainly is ob- 
solete. For certain is found only in dialect. 


This word has been in reputable use for at least 
two centuries as meaning reputation, and for about 
the same length of time as meaning a recommendation 
or testimonial. 


Cheap does not merely mean low priced, but hearing 
a low price in proportion to intrinsic worth. The 
meaning worthless or paltry is figurative. 


The adjective chief can be compared only when 
it is used in the loose sense of prominent or leading. 
See Perfect, Unique, etc. 



We use childlike to denote the qualities of a child 
that we like, notably frankness and innocence. 
Childish expresses less desirable quaUties, weakness, 
puerility. Note a similar difference between other 
adjectives formed with different suffixes, such as 
womanish and womanly y mannish and manly. Boy- 
ish and girlish do not necessarily imply undesirable 


Choose is allowable as "little more than an equiv- 
alent of to will, to wish.'' It is vulgar in the sense 
of to wish to have, to want. It is correctly used in 
"He did not choose to speak to her in public." It 
is vulgar in "I don't choose any." 


A citizen is not merely a person but a person who 
has rights or privileges as a member of a state. 


Claim means, among other things, to assert as one 's 
own, to affirm one^s possession of. It is gaining ground 
in the colloquial American sense of contend, main- 
tain, or assert. The New York Evening Post, for 
example, tells its reporters, ^^ Claim is good as an 
alternative for assert.^' 


Clear is obsolete in ordinary senses of completely; 
we do not, for example, say, "I have clear finished." 


CleaUy however, in its adverbial use, is defined as 
used without restriction to mean completely, out- 
right Both are most used to-day in phrases such 
as, clear through, clean gone, and the Uke. Some 
American authorities call these colloquial. 


Clever in the sense of good-natured, amiable, or 
obliging is a piece of American slang now nearly 
obsolete. In general the word should apply more 
to physical skill and adroitness than to mental 

Climb down. 

Though climb commonly implies ascent, climb 
down has been in use since 1300. 


Combine as a noun meaning combination was 
probably devised by writers of newspaper head- 
lines to fit their spaces. It is a bit of newspaper and 
poUtical slang. 

Come and go. 

The choice between come and go in such a sentence 
as '^I will come to your office the next time I go 
down-town" depends on whether the reader is think- 
ing of motion toward the place he intends to ap- 
proach or motion away from the place he is leaving. 
The choice depends not on the form of the sentence, 
but on the idea to be expressed. Come over for 
come to see me is good familiar or colloquial diction, 
but avoided in dignified speech. 


Come and see me. 
See And. 

See Begin. 


Common as an abstract substantive has been used 
from Shakespeare's time or earUer in such phrases as 
above common, beyond common. Some recent critics 
challenge it in certain phrases with than; better than 
common, more than common. It would seem, how- 
ever, no more colloquial here than in the univer- 
sally accepted phrase ovt of the common (unusual), 
in which it has exactly the same meaning. 


Commonly applies to actions which are common to 
all ; frequently to an action that is repeated at short 
intervals; generally applies to actions which are done 
by a large number of persons, or as a custom by one 
person. Usually means customarily or habitually. 

Company at dinner. 
See At. 


It has been said that we use compare with when the 
relative merits of the things compared are under dis- 
cussion; and compare to in discussing similarity or 
dissimilarity. (See Like.) In so far as past usage 
shows any distinction between the two constructions, 
it is made on some such basis. 



Modern usage demands that compensate be fol- 
lowed by for, as, ^^ compensate for the want/' not 
merely '^ compensate the want." 


This word is sometimes scarcely to be distin- 
guished from complaisant. Both come from the 
same Latin word tlu*ough different channels. Com- 
placent means feeling or showing satisfaction, espe- 
cially in oneself. Complaisant means obliging , polite- 
ly agreeable, yielding. 


Complected is dialect or colloquial usage in the 
United States. Complexioned, a more regular for- 
mation, is in good use in the same sense. 


In ordinary usage complete is not distinguished 
from finished. On the basis of derivation complete 
may be said to mean to make perfect; finish, to bring 
to an end. 


Comprehensibly means conceivably, intelligibly. 
Comprehensively means widely inclusive. 


Compulsion denotes physical necessity; obligation 
denotes moral necessity. 

Conceive of. 
See Of. 



Conclude means, among other things, to infer , to 
arrive at a judgment by a process of reason. Decide 
means to come to a resolution by whatever process. 


The original meaning, now obsolete, of condign was 
equal in worth or dignity to. Now the word is used 
only of punishment; in using it we should remember 
that it does not necessarily mean severe but merely 
commensurate with the offense. 


Condone properly means forgive, not compensate 
for or atone for. 


Confess should be used of faults and sins. Admit 
should be used of mistakes and acknowledgments of 

Confide in. 

To confide in a person is to repose confidence in 
him; to confide to a person is to intrust him with a 


Almost the only sense of congratulate which is not 
now obsolete is felicitate. It diiffers, however, in 
meaning from felicitate in that it involves more 
sympathy (feeling with). One may felicitate an- 
other upon a joy which one does not profess to share. 
Congratulate now takes the direct object without with. 



The phrase in this connection was condemned by 
various writers and critics while it was comparatively 
new, but may now be accepted without reservation. 
Connection in this sense means contextual relation of 
thought, speech, or writing. 


The distinction between conquer and vanquish or 
overcome rests on the original meaning of conquer, 
which is to acquire by effort or by force of arms. 
Vanquish and overcome mean merely to get the better of 
without suggestion of acquisition. 


This word is legitimately used to mean importance, 
or moment. The meaning is of course a derived one 
from the primary meaning, something which follows as 
a result or effect. A person of importance or an event 
of moment is one followed by results or effects. 


The use of consider for think, suppose, or regard is 
comparatively modem and obviously a weakening of 
the primary meaning of the word, which is to con- 
template attentively {^^ consider the lilies . . .'')• The 
weaker use of the word is now general among good 


Considerable as applied to material things meaning 
a good deal is an American colloquialism. As an 


adverb it is obsolete except as used in dialect, as, 
^^I was considerable tired/' 


Constantly should be distinguished from frequently. 
It means continually y incessantly. Frequently means 
at intervals, often. 


A marriage is not consummated when the ceremony- 
is performed, but afterward: 

" When youth and beauty met together, 
Kindle their image like a star 
In a sea of glassy weather." 

As a verb it means complete, make perfect, and is 
pronounced consummate. As an adjective it is pro- 
nounced consiimmate, and means complete, perfect. 


Contagious means "communicable or infectious by 
contact.'' Infectious is applied, not only to diseases 
which are communicable by contact, but to all 
diseases which arise from infection, that is, the 
entrance into the animal or human body of micro- 
organisms. Transmissible is sometimes used to in- 
clude both classes of diseases. 


Contemptible means to he despised or held in con- 
tempt. Contemptuous means disdainful. If you say 
to your opponent, ''My opinion of you is con- 


temptible/' you say something to wliich he is quite 
likely to agree. 

Contents noted. 

This is a piece of commercial slang which a good 
writer will avoid even in business letters. 


Continual is applied to actions that are repeated 
without cessation — that is, that begin and end at 
intervals, the action being intermittent, but not the 
repetition. Continuous applies to actions that con- 
tinue without intervals. When a noise is continual, 
it is the repetition and not the sound that is con- 

See AinH. 


Contrary is distinguished by careful speakers from 
oppositey converse, and reverse. Contrary things can- 
not exist in the highest degree of either in the same 
object at the same time: ^'Thus folly and wisdom 
are contrary, for the profession of either precludes the 
other; yet most human acts and statements par- 
take of both'' (Standard Dictionary). 

Opposite appHes primarily to position over against, 
real or figurative. Opposite things may supplement 
and complete each other. 

Converse applies to an exchange of position between 
two or more parts, as, ''God is loye; love is God/' 


Reverse applies to a change which makes a thing 
the opposite or contrary of what it was. 


Contrast is followed generally by with rather than 
to. In passive constructions by is sometimes used: 
*'The dark foliage was brilliantly contrasted by the 
glittering whiteness of the plain'' (J. F. Cooper). 
This is an awkward construction which might be 
easily avoided. 


Convene means primarily come together; convoke 
means call together. Secondarily, convene means con- 
voke; its use in this sense is not incorrect, neither is 
it precise. 


Convenient in the sense of within easy reach, 
''handy,'' belongs in colloquial speech or dialect. 
In the sense of conveniently neoTy near in time or place 
to, it is said to belong to Ireland and the United 


Conversely does not mean contrarimse. See the 
distinction between contrary and converse under 


This word is no longer synonymous with convict. 
Convict means to prove guilty. Convince means "to 


cause (a person) to admit as established to his sat- 
isfaction that which is advanced in argument" {Ox- 
ford Dictionary). One is convinced of truth or of 
sin; one is convicted of crime. 


Corporal means ^^of or belonging to the human 
body.'' Corporeal means bodily as opposed to spirit- 
ually. Hence, *' corporal punishment/' '^corporeal 


Correspond is followed by to when it means ''to 
be equal to in character or function," as, ''This cor- 
responds to what we observe in mankind." It is 
followed by with when it means agree, as, "That 
does not correspond with what he said yesterday." 


The abbreviation Co forms plural and possessive 
as do ordinary nouns: plural Cos.; possessive singu- 
lar, Co's; for possessive plural Cos\ It seldom oc- 
curs in any of these forms except the possessive 


A council is a body organized for legislative or 
deliberative purposes. Counsel as a concrete noun 
means a lawyer in his function as representing a 
client; as an abstract noun it means advice. "At 
a meeting of the council assembled to oflfer counsel 
to the king, the people were represented by counsel." 



To use couple merely in the sense of two is to use 
it loosely and colloquially. Properly it means two 
of the same kind that are in some way paired or asso- 
ciated together. 


This word meaning a person of eccentric ideas has 
passed since 1881 from the category of slang into 
that of colloquial speech. 


Creditable now means bringing credit or honor, 
reputable. It is obsolete as a synonym of credible, 
which means believable or worthy of belief. 


A crime is an act punishable by law; sin is a trans- 
gression of moral law; vice is wrongdoing, thought of 
as harmful to the doer or others. 

See Introduction, p. iv. 


Cunning does not mean pretty and amusing, 
quaintly attractive. Do not use it unless you mean 
knowing, skilful, dexterous, clever, artful, guileful, or 


The plural of this word is cupfuls. See Teaspoon- 



Custom is the voluntary repetition of an act; a 
habit is an act become involuntary through custom. 
We speak of the habits of animals as if all were 
involuntary, unless we wish to distinguish those 
which are not. Thus we might say of a dog, ^' It is his 
custom to visit the garbage-pail daily." 


Cute in the sense of smart or clever is colloquial; 
in the sense of pretty and amusing , ^^ cunning ^^^ it is an 
Americanism universally condemned as slang or 
highly colloquial. See also Cunning. 



Dare is an older form for the present indicative 
third singular than dares. It is not used to-day be- 
fore the infinitive; we say, ^^He dare not do it" and 
*^He dares to go anywhere." See Need. 

DaresnH is a contraction for dares not allowable 
colloquially at least in the third person singular of 
the present indicative. It is obviously incorrect in 
any other person or number, for if the required form 
is dare the contraction would be darenH. Compare 
DonH and DoesnH. Similarly durstnH is a proper 
contraction only in the preterit third singular. 
Dared not is also correct for this tense and number. 


This is a plural form sometimes incorrectly used 
as singular. See also Strata and Phenomena. 



The use of this word to mean an engagement is still 
slang, though its highly disreputable origin is now 
nearly forgotten. 


Dead is allowable in the sense of absolute or com- 
plete^ as, a dead certainty. Even the phrase dead 
beat, meaning completely tired, is allowed by the 
Oxford Dictionary, though marked colloquial by the 
Standard Dictionary. 


Deal as a noun meaning a business transaction is 
vulgar or slang. In the sense of an underhand 
transaction in commerce or politics it is an Ameri- 
canism still colloquial. 

As a verb, deal is followed by with (not on) : ''The 
book deals with the subject of economics.'' 


Dear Sir is less formal than My dear Sir in the 
salutation of a letter. 


Deceased is now accepted by the lexicographers as 
meaning, among other things, the person lately dead. 


The primary meaning of decided is settled, certain, 
d£ finite. Decisive means primarily conclusive, deter- 
minative. Both have the secondary meaning, reso- 
lute, unhesitating. 



Deck meaning a pack of cards was in good use in 
England before and during the seventeenth cen- 
tury, at which time the first settlers brought it to 
America. It fell into disuse, or into disreputable 
use, in England, but remains in good use in the 
United States. It is one of a number of seventeenth- 
century survivals in American speech, which we 
owe, doubtless, to the care with which the colonists 
preserved in their isolation the speech of the England 
they had left. 


A technical meaning of deduction is '^inference by 
reasoning from generals to particulars. In this it is 
the opposite of induction in which the reasoning is 
from particulars to generals.'' 


Definite means having fixed limits, clearly defined; 
definitive means decisive, conclusive, final. 


Dehcious is properly applied to that which gives 
pleasure to the senses. That which gives sesthetic 
pleasure should be characterized as delightful. 


Delighted is used with at, in, with, by in various 
shades of meaning. Delighted ivith usually denotes 
pleasure in material things, as, ''I am delighted with 
my new car.'' Delighted at denotes similar pleasure 


or satisfaction in other classes of things, as, '*I was 
dehghted at the way in which he was received/' 
Delighted in is usually applied to the one who per- 
forms an act, as, ^^He delighted in relieving dis- 
tress." Delighted by seems to call attention more 
distinctly to the cause of the pleasure and possibly 
to suggest a higher kind or degree of pleasure, as, 
''The eye was delighted by the beauty of the land- 
scape. '^ 

" Deliver the goods." 
See ''Guiding Principles/' p. 9. 


Delusion is to be distinguished from illusion in that 
it is a deception of the mind involving a false belief 
or opinion, whereas an illusion is a deception of the 
senses. A mirage is an illusion; behef in witchcraft 
is a delusion, as generally held. 


Demean originally meant conduct. The only mean- 
ing of the original verb, not now obsolete, is to con- 
duct oneself, to behave. Demean in the sense of 
debase probably arose from a misconception of the 
original meaning as supposedly derived from the 
/adjective mean. In the sentence, "It is a thousand 
times fitter that I should wash thine (feet) nor can I 
bear to see thee demean thyself thus," demean might 
mean either conduct oneself or debase. The modern 
tendency is strongly against the use of demean in 
any other sense than behave or conduct oneself. 



Demoralized should not be used to mean merely 
frightened. In the sense in which it is confused 
with frighten it means, ''To lower or destroy the 
power of bearing up against dangers, fatigue, or 
difficulty; applied especially to an army or a people 
under arms'' {Oxford Dictionary). This is a sec- 
ondary meaning from the primary one to deprive of 
moral principles (discipline). 


In modem usage demure denotes a gravity or so- 
briety of conduct which is affected or assumed. 
Originally the word carried no suggestion of affec- 
tation. The nun in Milton's line, ''Sober, steadfast 
and demure," was in no sense insincere. 


To take one^s departure is said to be a confusion of 
the two constructions to take one^s leave and to make 
one^s departure. It is safe to say the construction is 
well established now as an idiom. 

Depositary and Depository. 

The second meaning of each of these words is 
identical with the first meaning of the other. They 
are conamonly distinguished to-day, however, as 
follows: a depositary is a person with whom funds are 
left in trust; a depository is a place where things are 
left for safe keeping. 

A depot is properly a place where goods are deposited 


and stored. It is correctly used of a railroad freight 
station, and was long colloquially used (and variously 
mispronounced) in the United States to mean a pas- 
senger station. It is not now in good use in that sense. 


Deprecate means to plead earnestly against, to ex- 
press earnest disapproval of. Depreciate means to 
lower in value, to lessen the value of, to lower in estitnon 
tion, to underrate. In no senses are the words inter- 
changeable or even similar in meaning. 


Description is unnecessarily used for kind, sort, 
appearance, as, '^chairs of this description." One 
of the meanings of description is, ^^A group of at- 
tributes or characteristics present in or constituting 
a class" {Standard Dictionary), hence the class itself, 
then kind, sort. The principle of simplicity would 
indicate the avoidance of description where it means 
nothing more than sort. 


Desire has many meanings in common with want, 
wish, and need, but there are some distinctions. 
We may desire anything from a loaf of bread to a 
starry crown, but we should not use the word in 
calling for the bread in a shop, not because it would 
be incorrect, but because it would sound affected, — 
possibly because it is a Latin word. Perhaps for this 
reason it is used in lofty diction to apply to higher 
things; but it also has a special sense of fleshly long- 


ing. Wish carries somq suggestion of the remoteness 
of the object, but is used with the infinitive to 
express desire for obtainable conditions or perform- 
able acts (^'I wish to go'Oj where in speaking of 
objects we should use want That which we want 
we think of primarily as lacking; it may also be 
necessary, or may be both. That which we need 
is both necessary and lacking. See also Choose. 


Despatch is a variant spelling of the original dis- 
patch. There is no difference in meaning. 


Despite means in spite of. We may say either, 
despite his opposition or in spite of his opposition, 
but not in despite of his opposition. 


Detect means to discover something difficult to dis- 
cover, usually by minute traces or differences; also to 
discover something wrongfully concealed and difficult to 
find out. A flaw or a crime may be either discovered 
or detected. Balboa did not detect the Pacific Ocean 
by any minute traces; he discovered it. Detect 
should not be used for see or recognize. ^^The 
Southern delegates could be detected by their broad, 
soft hats''; such recognition does not call for the 
astuteness of a detective. See Discern and Discover. 

Didn't use to. 
See Use. 



The use of prepositions after die is thus defined by 
the Oxford Dictionary: '^To die of a malady, hunger, 
old age, or the like; by violence, the sword, his own 
hand; from sl wound, inattention, etc.; through 
neglect; on or upon the cross, the scaffold, at the 
stake, in battle; for a cause, object, reason, or 
purpose, for the sake of one." 


With and from may be used almost indiscrimi- 
nately after differ. From is most often used when the 
nature of the difference is specified, as, ''I differ 
from him in politics." Where differ carries a sug- 
gestion of a quarrel and oral expression of the dif- 
ference, it is commonly followed by with, as, '*I am 
sure to differ with him whenever I see him." 


The construction different than has been used by 
the best English writers since about the beginning 
of the eighteenth century. It is universally frowned 
on by American authorities, though it has wide col- 
loquial usage. Different to is a British construction 
seldom heard in the United States. 


The verb direct is correctly used in the sense of to 
address, write the address on the outside of a letter. 

Direct is correctly used as an adverb meaning 
directly, as, '^This train goes direct to Albany." 
Direct could not be used in such a sentence as, ''He 


is directly responsible/' or in any sentence in which 
directly means without the intervention of a medium or 


Directly means immediately in both senses: 1. mth- 
out medium or intervening agent, as, ''He is imme- 
diately responsible''; 2. immediately in time, straight- 
way, as, ''He came directly." In the sense of as 
soon as, both immediately and directly are colloquial, 
as, "I ordered my dinner immediately (directly) I 
came in." 


In all ordinary meanings disappointment is a dis- 
agreeable process to him who undergoes it; disap- 
point is defined by such words as, balk, foil, thwart, 
undo, defeat, frustrate. The phrase agreeably disap- 
pointed is often condemned. It should be noted, 
however, that the force of the phrase was originally 
paradoxical. With a certain suggestion of humor, it 
has become so widely current that we may accept it 
as useful within its limits. 

One is disappointed of a hope or wish not fulfilled, 
an object not attained; if the object when attained 
proves not to be what we wished or hoped we are 
disappointed in (rarely with) it. 


Discern, discriminate, and distinguish may be used 
as practically synonymous. All three mean to set 
apart; discern, on the basis of what one sees; dis- 


criminate J on the basis of judgment; and distinguish^ 
on the basis of distinctive marks. Thus we speak 
of one who is distinguished in appearance, discrimi- 
nating in his judgment, and discerning in his insight. 
See also Discover and Detect. 


Discommode means the same as incommode or in- 
convenience. It has been gradually falling into dis- 
use and has already been called obsolete. 


Discover means uncover, reveal, find, and implies the 
previous existence, known or unknown, of the thing 
found. Invent means devise. To speak of an in- 
vention as a discovery is careless use or figurative use, 
or else it implies an identification of the invention 
with the principle thereof. See also Detect and 


Disinterested in the sense of uninterested is now 
obsolete. The word now means unbiased by personal 
interest; free from self-seeking. 


Dislike should be used to express disagreeableness 
and minor degrees of aversion; hate should be used 
to express intense aversion, and should be sparingly 
used as applied to inanimate things. We may have 
dislike for the odor of garlic and hatred for vice or 



The modem tendency is to use disposal rather than 
di^osition to mean power of disposing of, control, in 
such expressions as *^af one's disposaV 


Disremember meaning to fail to remember is a dia- 
lect form. EngUsh writers put the word in the 
mouths of American characters m fiction. 

See Remote. 


Distinctive means characteristic y distinguishing. It 
should not be confused with distinct, which means 
distinguishable. One's manner of speech might be 
distinct without being distinctive; distinguishable 
without being characteristic or distinguishing. 

Divers and Diverse. 

Divers means various, sundry, several; diverse means 
not alike in nature or qualities. Thus, '* There were 
divers men of diverse opinions/' means that there 
were several men no two of whom held the same 


This word seems to be a comparatively recent 
American coinage. In the sense of to bestow a con- 
siderable gift on an important or worthy cause it is 
perhaps allowable, though but little used outside of 


the United States. In the ordinary sense of give it is 
vulgar. Only one expression could be worse: ^^The 
Mt. Doma property has been gifted to the college.'' 


DonH is a contraction of do not, and cannot be 
correctly used for does not. For the third person 
singular doesnH is the only allowable contraction. 

DonH hardly is universally condemned. See Can^t 


Dope as a noun means "Any thick liquid or pasty 
preparation, as of opium" (Webster). As a verb, it 
means to treat (something or some one) vrith siich 
material, to drug. In these meanings it is recognized 
by dictionaries; in various figurative and derivative 
meanings it is slang. 

Do so. 

These words are sometimes used in infinitive 
constructions at the end of a sentence, as, "We can 
stop now to help you if you are willing to have us do 
so.'' This use is sometimes condemned, as is also 
the clipped construction of such a sentence as "I 
should like to have you go if you are willing to." 
Both constructions may be accepted as idiomatic, 
the second being sUghtly more colloquial than the 

Dote on. 
See Like. 


Double negative. 
See CanH hardly, DonH hardly, and Isn't but one. 

Double possessive. 


The verb doubt is followed by a clause introduced 
by whether or if when two alternatives are in con- 
sideration, as, '^I doubt whether that is the best way 
to go about it.'' // is also used in this construction, 
though perhaps not quite logically. A clause in- 
troduced by that after doubt raises the doubt without 
considering the alternative: '^I doubt that a law 
could be framed to prevent it." Negative clauses 
after doubt are introduced by that, as, ^'I do not 
doubt that he will come in time." See But. 


Doubtlessly is a form acknowledged by the diction- 
aries, but seldom used to-day except by unpractised 
writers. Doubtless is adverb as well as adjective; the 
addition of -ly cannot make it any more adverbial. 


Dove is fast becoming obsolete as the past tense of 
the verb to dive. Dived is preferable in the preterit, 
and has long been the required form for the past 

Draft and Draught. 

Draft is the phonetic spelling of draught. The 
American tendency is to use draft for all senses of the 



word. In the Oxford Dictionary ^ draft is given as 
established for some of the meanings, such as, the 
drawing of a body of troops j the body of troops so drawny 
the drawing of money by a written order ^ a money 
order J a plan or sketch of a drawing or a piece of 


Drank is the correct form for the past tense of 
drink; drunk is the present participle. 

See Awful. 


The distinction between drive and ride as it is made 
in England is that ''One drives in a vehicle of which 
the course is under one's control, as one's own or a 
friend's private carriage, or a hired carriage or cab; 
one rides in a vehicle the course of which one does 
not control, as a public stage-coach, omnibus, or 
tram-car, or the cart of a friendly farmer who 
gives one a 'lift' on the road." In the United States 
we speak of driving usually as the process of control- 
ling the vehicle; unless an American holds the reins, 
the wheel, or the throttle he considers that he is 
riding. Of course we do not drive a horse that we 
bestride, nor an ordinary bicycle, even though we 
control them. 


The preterit of drown is drowned. Drownded is 


Due to. 

Due to is an adjective phrase; on account of is ad- 
verbial. The distinction should always be sharply 
made. We say, ''The dissatisfaction of the people 
was due to the high tax-rate; taxes are high because 
of (or on account of) the necessity for new roads.'' 


Dumb means primarily unable to speak; second- 
arily, reticent. Since a person ''who hasn't a word 
to say for himself" easily gets the reputation of being 
stupid, and since the German word dumm does mean 
stupid, dumb has come into local and vulgar use in 
the United States to mean stupid. All authorities 
condemn its use in this sense. 

See Dare. 



Each and every and their compounds each one, 
every one, and everybody should always be followed by 
singular pronouns and verbs. "Every one must 
show his (not their) ticket at the door." "Let each 
one tell his own story." "England expects every 
man to do his duty." 

Each other. 

Logically each other should be used only of two per- 
sons; one another any number more than two. The 
distinction is made by careful writers and speakers, 


though the modern tendency in speech is to use each 
other in all cases. 


In modern usage eat is used in present and future 
tenses, ate in the past, and eaten is the past participle. 
^^I eat my breakfast at eight o'clock; yesterday I 
ate my dinner at one; to-morrow I shall eat dinner 
at half past six/' Eat pronounced et is fast becoming 
obsolete for the past tense, though it still survives as 
a variant pronunciation. 


Originally this was not a plural word, but its 
final s has caused it to be taken for one, and it now 
universally takes the plural verb. 

See Ere. 

See Affect. 


The egoist is one who makes seK-interest the main 
principle of his conduct. The egotist is one who 
constantly uses the pronoun I. Thus the egoist is 
one who thinks always of himself; the egotist, one 
who talks always of himself. Egotism might be 
merely a symptom of egoism. In many ordinary 
senses the words are indistinguishable, and in or- 
dinary conversation the distinction is not often made. 



The use of either to mean each or each of the twOj as, 
"There was a fireplace at either end of the hall," has 
often been condemned. Yet it is the first and oldest 
meaning of the word and has been in good use from 
the time of King Alfred to that of George V. 

The question whether either I or they shall be fol- 
lowed by am or are is one which cannot be answered 
satisfactorily. The only safe way is to avoid the 
construction, as, '^Either I am wrong or they are." 
If it cannot be avoided, let the verb agree with the 
nearest subject, as, '^Either you or I am wrong." 


This was originally the comparative of old and 
meant the same thing as older. It is now, however, 
restricted to certain special uses, of which the chief 
is that of an attribute without than: ^'Not now used 
of things, except with quasi-personification. Now 
chiefly used with nouns denoting family relationship, 
or as denoting the senior of two indicated persons" 
{Oxford Dictionary). '^An elder brother's care, an 
elder brother's love were there" (Scott). It is used 
also to apply to ancient or early times, as, **Huge as 
the giant race of elder time" (Southey). In all these 
uses older would be entirely correct. 


Elegant means characterized by grace or refinement. 
Its use as a general term of aggrobaiiog C*I had an 
elegant time") is universally condemned as a piece 
of slangy hyperb ole. 



This word means to put out, thrust out, exclude, 
expel. It does not mean isolate, extract, elicit, or 
deduce. The chief objection to it is that it is often 
misunderstood, and that it is often used where a 
simpler word would have a more unassuming effect. 


Else should be followed by than with the nomina- 
tive case, as, ^^It is no one else than I," meaning, 
''It was none other than I." But and the accusa- 
tive should not follow else; this is a construction by 
itself: it is no one but me. 

In compounds else may, according to modem usage, 
take the 's of the possessive. Anybody^s else is cor- 
rect, but modern usage prefers anybody else^s. 


Emerge means to rise out of a liquid; it is practi- 
cally the opposite of immerge, which means to plunge 


An emigrant is one who goes out of a country; 
an immigrant is one who comes in. The choice be- 
tween the two words depends on whether the migra- 
tion is thought of as motion out of or into. 


Eminence is height. An eminence is a lofty position. 
Imminence means threatening danger. Immanence 
means a permanent abiding within. Thus we might 


say, ''The imminence (threatening danger) of his 
situation was due to the eminence of his position." 
Eminent means high or lofty. Imminent means im- 
pending. Immanent means indwelling. 


In words like enclose, endorse, and enquire the 
choice between in and eji is practically optional with 
the user. British usage shows a tendency toward 
enclose, endorse, and inquire, but still holds to enquire 
in the sense of to ask a question. American usage 
shows a tendency to use in for all three words, but 
finds the en forms acceptable. 

Enclosed please find. 

This is objectionable, not because please is mis- 
used, but because the whole is a bit of business slang. 
I (or we) enclose'' is shorter and better. 



Encounter is now rarely used to denote a casual 
or friendly meeting; it carries almost inevitably 
some suggestion of hostility. 


For indorse and endorse, see Enclose. 

Approve is a figurative meaning of endorse. It is 
legitimate as a figure of speech, but, like all figures, 
should be used discriminatingly. It is a commercial 
figure, and often carries an implication of self-esteem. 
A man, for example, who speaks of himself as en- 
dorsing an idea implies that without his support it 
might not pass current. 



American dictionaries give endwise, lengthwise, side- 
vnse, as the preferred form. British usage seems to 
prefer the forms in -ways: sideways, lengthways, 


Such expressions as ^^I enjoyed myself at the 
party'' are sometimes condemned on the logical 
ground that one enjoys the party and not oneself. 
^'I enjoyed the party'' is certainly correct and more 
precise, but the other is acceptable at least collo- 
quially, and is used by many careful writers. Enjoy 
followed by the infinitive, as, ''I should enjoy to 
go," is obsolete usage. 


Practically all dictionaries declare this word to be 
colloquial or humorous. It seems, however, to be 
gaining ground in current usage and is becoming 
more and more widely acceptable, though it has still 
a certain suggestion of vulgarity. 


Environment meant originally merely surroundings, 
vicinity, surrounding district. Recent usage, how- 
ever, tends to restrict it to mean surroundings or 
surrounding conditions which influence one's life or 


An epidemic disease is, strictly speaking, one which 
becomes prevalent in a community or group of 


people at a special time, but which is due to causes 
not generally prevalent in that community. Loosely, 
it is used to mean merely prevalent. Endemic is ap- 
plied to diseases which belong to a particular dis- 
trict and are due to special conditions which exist 


An epithet is merely '^an adjective indicating some 
quality or attribute which the speaker or writer 
regards as characteristic of the person or thing de- 
scribed." It is not necessarily derogatory; whether 
the epithet is for praise or blame should be indicated 
by an adjective, as, complimentary, vilifying, de- 


Equally may be followed by with, but not by as. 
In such an expression as, *' equally as good," as 
is redundant because both as and equally express 
equality. In sentences expressing comparison, ^Hhis 
is equally as good as that," equally is redundant. 

Er and Or. 

These two suffixes, as used to form nouns of 
agency or doing, cannot be distinguished by in- 
variable rules. In general, er is used to form nouns 
referring to profession or employment, whereas the 
nouns in or, usually formed from Latin past-participle 
stems, are more apt to mean merely the doer of the 
act without the notion of trade or profession. The 
er sufiix is less apt to be added to nouns that are 


formed from verbs. Both these tendencies, how- 
ever, have so many exceptions that they can hardly 
be formulated as rules. Most nouns formed on 
English stems are formed with er, and most new 
formations use it, whether on EngUsh or Latin stems. 


Ere means before. It can hardly be used in prose 
without suggestion of affectation. It should not be 
confused with e'er, which is a poetic variant of ever. 


An eruption is a breaking out; an irruption is a 
breaking in, an incursion. The distinction between 
the two words is made according as one thinks of the 
motion as out or in. 


There is no distinction to be made between especial 
and special. Special is now more widely used, per- 
haps because the e of especial so easily disappears in 
pronunciati6n. The choice between specially and 
especially is to be made almost entirely on the prin- 
ciple of euphony, — ^use whichever sounds better. 
Where the meaning is ''by exceptional action for 
specific purpose," as in the sentence, ''A deputy was 
specially appointed to guard the door," specially is 
the correct word. 


No title, not even Mr., should precede the name 
when Esq. follows it. See Mr. 



Etc. is the abbreviation for the Latin phrase 
et ceteray which means strictly and the rest. We read 
it colloquially ''and so forth," and may continue to 
do so in spite of the objection of the Latinists. To 
write it ect. is a conspicuous mark of illiteracy; to 
repeat it and read it, ''and so forth, and so forth,'' 
is to seek for emphasis which one does not get. 
The use of the abbreviation is subject to the objec- 
tion that may be made to the use of all abbreviations, 
the appearance of haste and carelessness, or even of 
discourtesy. The English phrase, and the like, is 
almost always better. 


Both infinite and everlasting denote infinity and 
are practically synonymous in their general usage. 
The distinction is, that that which is eternal is in- 
finite in both past and future duration — that is, it 
has neither beginning nor end. That which is ever- 
lasting is infinite in future duration; it may or may 
not have a beginning, but it has no end. 


In spite of its final s, this noun is singular in 
number and takes a singular verb, as, "What is the 
ethics of the case?" The form without the final 5, 
ethic, is an adjective, as, the ethic principle. 


The use of evenings and mornings and similar 
words adverbially to mean, in the evening, and the 


like, is sometimes condemned. It is, however, very 
old, idiomatic usage. It has always a certain col- 
loquial flavor, and may be avoided where such a 
flavor is undesirable. 


See Have ever. 

It is not worth while to try to make a distinction 
on which some grammarians insist, between ever so 
and never so, in such sentences as, ^^If he work never 
so hard, he cannot do it.'^ The construction with 
never seems to be the older one. Ever so came into 
use seemingly from some sense that it was more 
logical. Now we are told that we should use never 
so on the ground that it is more logical. Both can 
be defended on logical grounds; both are idiomatic; 
and the two seem to be in equally good use. 


Every is not always a distributive. In such expres- 
sions as ^^I have every confidence in him'' and ''He 
showed me every attention'' it is used in a special 
and entirely legitimate sense — that is, all possible, the 
utmost degree of. 

Every once in a while seems to be a corruption of 
ever once in a while, meaning always at intervals. In 
its present form it is illogical, but may be accepted 
as idiomatic, though perhaps somewhat colloquial. 
Every now and then and every little while are also 

Every which way is a harmless phrase which it is 
not worth while to condenm as incorrect. It is an 


Americanism and highly colloquial. In dignified 
speech use every way, in all directions. 


Everywheres for everywhere is sheer vulgarity ; the 
more so when pronounced evervmrz. 


Evidence may be anything which makes truth man- 
ifest; testimony is usually a special kind of evidence, 
personal affirmation. In evidence is a more or less 
technical phrase, objectionable only because it is 


Except and excepting may be used interchangeably, 
as, ''I have finished all except (excepting) the last.'' 
Excepting in such constructions is in a sound par- 
ticipial construction; there is no good reason for 
condemning it. It is indistinguishable also from 
but in such sentences as, ^^They know nothing of 
liberty except (but) the name.'' It should, how- 
ever, be sharply distinguished from unless in such 
expressions as, '* You cannot drive the car unless you 
understand the engine." It should be distinguished 
from besides; it is illogical in the sentence, ''Few 
except he could have accomplished so much." This 
clearly means, few others besides, or in addition to. 


This word means open to objection. It should never 
be confused with exceptional, which means out of the 
ordinary course^ unusual. 



Excessively is a stronger word than exceedingly. 
Both mean beyond limit; exceedingly suggests that 
the Umit is known, whereas excessively means beyond 
all measure, beyond any limit known or unknown. In 
ordinary use as apphed to ordinary matters, such as 
weather, both are more or less hyperboUcal. 


Excite means primarily to set in motion, secondarily 
to bring about or occasion an action. Incite means to 
rouse to a particular action. Thus excite is allowable 
in the sense of incite, but incite carries only the 
secondary meaning of excite. 


The distinction between the phrases excuse m£ and 
pardon me, is not a necessary one. Either may be 
used for the ordinary casual apology for slight im- 
propriety or offense. Strictly speaking, excuse me 
is more logical in apologizing or asking leave for 
withdrawal from the room or from the table, and 
pardon me for any occasion which seems to call for 
forgiveness, as for a breach of etiquette. 


Exemplary does not necessarily mean desirable or 
excellent, but rather serving as a type or precedent. 
Thus an exemplary punishment is excellent or desir- 
able only from certain points of view. 


This is a Latin word meaning, "he, she, or it goes 
out.'' Thus he exits is neither Latin nor EngUsh; 


if it has any standing in the language at all, it is as a 
technical plirase in the moving-picture scenario, 
meaning ''he makes a theatrical exit." See Exodus. 


An exodus is a going out of a large body of people 
usually to settle in some other country. It could not 
be used of a single person or even a small group with- 
out suggesting a humorous exaggeration. Exit as a 
noun is perhaps more formal than mere departure and 
less imposing than exodus. 


The modern tendency is to restrict the use of 
exorbitant to things which suggest demand, as an 
exorbitant price. A person who is called exorbitant 
is usually thought of as demanding; exorbitant power 
enables the wielder to make excessive demands. 
Where the idea of demand is not present, use exces- 
sive or inordinate. 


Expect in the sense of suppose C'l expect I shall 
go to the theater to-night'') is incorrect. Expect 
implies a looking forward to events over which we 
have Uttle or no control, and is limited in its use 
as applied to oiu* own movements. 


Extend as applied to such a thing as an invitation 
implies condescension. In this use send is usually 




One who finds it necessary to qualify the word 
fact with some such adjective as true, realy actual j lays 
himself open to the suspicion of having two kinds of 
^^ facts'' at his disposal. We always have more 
faith in the man who has but one kind, that is — fact. 


This word has been slang for as long as it has been 
in the language. It is, however, gaining ground and 
may ultimately come into good use. 


Fell is a causative verb from fall, meaning to cause 
to fall, most commonly used of trees. The principal 
parts of fall are, present, fall; preterit, fell; past 
participle, fallen. Of fell, they are fell, felled, felled. 

Fall as a noun meaning autumn is in thoroughly 
good use in the United States; it is said to be less 
common in England. 

Fall down in the sense of to fail is comparatively 
recent slang. It is, however, a sound enough meta- 
phor and seems to be losing its flavor of slang. 


Family is used with either a singular or plural verb; 
with the singular verb if one thinks of it as a united 
whole acting together; with the plural verb if one 
thinks of the separate members acting separately. 



Farther was originally a mere variant of further. 
Nowadays a distinction is made between the two 
words in that farther is used to denote extensions in 
space, and is thought of as the comparative of far; 
whereas further is commonly applied to extension in 
thought. Many instances occur in which the dis- 
tinction can hardly be made. 


We are told that fascinating should not be indis- 
criminately applied as a term of approval, because it 
means to enchant, charm. The word is overworked, 
and no trem should be used indiscriminately, but 
have we any word to express the idea that does not 
get its force from the idea of magic? We have charm- 
ing, enchanting, bewitching, all in the same weakened 
sense. Take in Shakespeare and Milton has the 
sense of enchant, and so we have taking in the same 
meaning. Perhaps as an extension of this comes 
fetching, also; though fetch as a noun means a trick 
in some dialects, and a ghost in others. 


At fault properly means puzzled or at a loss. It is a 
phrase taken from the use of the word fault in hunt- 
ing, where it means a break in the line of scent. It is, 
then, not strictly used to mean not equal to the occa- 
sion. It is incorrectly used when it is confused with 
in fault, which means to blame. 


Favor is recorded in American dictionaries, among 
other things, as meaning letter. At best it is an over- 


worked bit of politeness from which most of the 
courtesy has disappeared. The more specific word 
letter is to be preferred. 


Feel bad, see Bad; feel of, see Of. 


Fellow in the sense of merely a man or person has 
long been in use in English. It is in good use with a 
qualifying adjective as, a clever fellow, a young fellow, 
and the like, and in phrases such as my dear fellow. 
In unceremonious colloquial speech, such as that of 
school-boys and collegians, it is used without ad- 


The noun female as a synonym for woman was in 
good use in the eighteenth century, but early in the 
nineteenth century became a term of contempt. As 
an adjective female should be distinguished from 
feminine, which means '^characteristic of, peculiar or 
proper to women; woman-Uke, womanly.'' 


Ferment means to suffer fermentation, to ^'work.^^ 
It should be distinguished from foment, which means 
primarily to bathe with nvarm or medicated lotions, and 
figuratively to cherish, cultivate, stimulate, instigate. 

Fervent and Fervid. 

These two words come from the same source and 
are so closely parallel in meaning that examples of 


their use collected from five centuries of English 
literature show no appreciable distinction between 

See Bring. 


A few means a small number; few means barely any. 
The distinction is purely a matter of idiom. 


Fewer should be distinguished from less in that it 
applies to number, whereas less applies to quantity. 
It is incorrect, for example, to say, ^'I have fewer 
molasses and less peanuts than I need.'' Less is 
sometimes correctly used with expressions of num- 
ber, as less than ten minutes, less than fifty cents, where 
the number of minutes or cents clearly is thought of 
as a definite quantity of time or money. 


Figure in the sense of amount, as, ''I could not buy 
it now at any such figure,'' was originally a bit of 
commercial slang, but is now in fairly good use. 


Final is often used redundantly in such expressions 
as final end, final completion. Of course, if one had 
a series of ends or completions, one might speak of 
the last of the series as final; in any other use such 
expressions are illogical. 



We are told that we should distinguish between 
financial, fiscal, monetary, and pecuniary; but in 
truth the distinction is seldom made, and seems 
hardly worth insisting on. Financial and fiscal both 
originally applied to the funds or resources of a 
state or a sovereign. Now fiscal is little used except 
in the phrase fiscal year (in which sense financial is 
now widely accepted). Financial is now very gener- 
ally used as the equivalent of any of the others, 
though the tendency is to apply it to large transac- 
tions not conducted with coin or cash. Monetary 
properly applies to actual money and cash transac- 
tions. Pecuniary also means having to do with 
money, though less directly than monetary. Thus 
we speak of financial enterprises, a pecuniary reward, 
monetary assistance, pecuniary affairs, monetary trans- 
actions, and the like. 


Any one who objects to the use of find in the sense 
of supply or furnish, as, ^Hhirty dollars a month and 
found, ^' ^'all found but flour and bacon," does not 
know the English language. It has been in con- 
tinuous use in this sense for at least seven himdred 


To fine as a general term of approbation may be 
applied the comments made elsewhere on fascinating, 
nice, and others. 



First is often used redundantly in such sentences 
as, ''I must get my book first before I begin." 

The expression first two is sometimes condemned 
as illogical, on the ground that only one can be first 
or last. Two first or first and second may be used 
instead, but the objection to first two where the 
meaning is clear is pedantic. The pedants, by the 
way, are always careful to point out that one may 
correctly speak of the first two when the series is a 
series of twos. 

Former is now preferred to first where only two 
persons or things are mentioned. 

Firstly has been in use since the sixteenth century 
as an adverb used in enumerating heads and topics 
in discourse, cognate with secondly, thirdly, etc. 
But first is also an adverb, and modern writers prefer 
it to firstly, even when followed closely by secondly y 
and the others. Some writers declare dogmatically 
^^ firstly is always incorrect,'' but it is difficult to find 
any basis for the assertion. 

First rate. 

First rate is in good colloquial use, both as ad- 
jective and adverb, — ^'He is a first-rate chap, and 
I should Hke first rate to meet him.'' It seems to 
come from the naval rating of ships. 


In view of the fact that this has been called the 
"great American word" for all uses, it is interesting 
to note some of the definitions and examples of the 
use of the word from the Oxford Dictionary. 


One definition is '^To decide, determine to (do 
something) ; also in construction with for with the 
gerund, or with a subordinate sentence." Among the 
examples illustrating this use of the word are two 
from the late eighteenth century: ''He fixed to 
come with some 6clat to town,'' ''They fixed for 
going to the parsonage early the next morning/' 
One is from the London Times, December 10, 1866: 
"The lady had entirely fixed to lead a life of celi- 
bacy." This is one of the uses of the word which 
is frequently condenmed as an Americanism, either 
provincial, dialect, or colloquial. 

Another sense is defined, "To adjust, make ready 
for use (arms, instruments, etc.); to arrange in 
proper order." One example of the word in this 
sense comes from the seventeenth century (1666): 
"We have in every garrison one gunsmith . . . who 
buys arms for us and fixes them up privately." 
Another dated 1779, "I thought it a good oppor- 
tunity to fix my German flute." 

Next we find, "In a wider sense (chiefly U. S, 
colloquial): to arrange, get ready, put in order; 
put to rights, make tidy, 'rig up.' Also with ujpJ^ 
(But note example dated 1666 above.) 

In regard to this, Americans will perhaps be more 
ready than Englishmen to ask why "to arrange in 
proper order" (not specially applied to arms and 
instruments in the definition quoted above) is good 
British usage for the word, while 'Ho arrange, get 
ready, put in order" is condenmed as colloquial 
American usage. 

On the other hand, no American will deny that 


we do abuse the word, applying it, through laxness of 
mental processes and limitation of vocabulary, to 
acts of all sorts, from the peeling and mashing of a 
potato to the conquest of an offending nation. 

Fly and Flee. 

Grammarians tell us that we must distinguish 
between fly and flee. If we succeed in doing so, it is 
more than our forefathers have ever done. The 
words were almost indistinguishable, that is, they 
were identical in certain tenses, in Anglo-Saxon, as 
they are in all Teutonic languages on account of the 
working of certain phonetic laws. Of the confusion 
in modern English, the Oxford Dictionary says: 

In modem English the association of the two verbs 
has the curious result that the ordinary prose equivalent 
of the lj2iim fugere (flee) is^y, with the past tense and past 
participle fled (the forms fl£Wy flown have only the sense 
of Latin volare (fly), while ^6 has become archaic, being 
confined to more or less rhetorical or poetic diction. 
Even fly and fledy indeed, now belong rather to literary 
than to colloquial English: expressions like ^'run away'' 
being substituted in familiar speech. 

Thus, the verb meaning to run away would be: 
present, fly; past, fled; past participle, fl£d; where- 
as to fly (as of a bird) would he fly, flew, flown. 


Folk in the singular means a tribe or nation, or any 
comparatively large body of persons considered in 
relation to a religious or political superior, as a 
priest, a king, a feudal lord. The use of the word 


in the plural has been condemned, but it is too old 
and well established to be discarded now. Folks 
means either persons (as ^' young folks/' '^old folks'') 
or persons of one's farriily. 


As a verb, fool is allowable meaning to act like a 
fool or to cheaty deludey deceive. The first {to act like 
a fool) seems to justify such expressions as, '^The 
accused began fooling with a loaded gun," and '^They 
seemed to stop and fool around awhile." In the 
sense of trifle, jest (^^I was only fooling") it is col- 
loquial. As an adjective, meaning /ooZts/i, silly ^ it is 
obsolete except in dialect or vulgar usage. 


As a preposition, for is followed by the objective 
case : ^ ' She bought apples for him and me " is correct. 

For is redundant in such expressions as '^more than 
you think for." 

For certain, see Certain. For sure, see Sure. For 
good, see Good. 

For long, meaning for a long time, is idiomatic. 


The construction forbid from, as in ''He forbade 
both men and women from entering them," is now 
rare. We should say more commonly ''He forbade 
them to enter," or, "He forbade their entering." 

Foreign words. 
See "Guiding Principles," pp. 4, 5. 



Former and latter should be sparingly used. Even 
where properly used, and efifective for clearness, they 
usually make awkward sentences. When used 
wrongly or unnecessarily they destroy both the 
clearness and the ease of the sentence. 

''John went to Louis' house. He found the latter 
just sitting down to breakfast." Probably this 
means nothing more than, ''John went to see Louis, 
whom he found just sitting down to breakfast." 

"One of two things will happen; either the Im- 
perial Government will yield, or it will not; probably 
the former." "Probably it will yield" would be 
better. Former referring to a clause as if the 
clause were a noim is highly questionable use of 
the word. 

"During the conversation between Smith and 
Colonel Rider, the former showed his watch to Mr. 
Pratt, whereupon the latter said that it was time for 
him to go home." In this sentence the use of latter 
is ambiguous. 

In general, the objection io former and latter is that 
even when they are correctly used the reader must 
go back over the sentence to attach them to the 
proper persons, and the construction is usually no 
less awkward than the repetition of the names 
would make it. Often the construction can be 
avoided, as in the first example above. 


The difference between /ort^?ard! and forwards is thus 
explained by the Oxford Dictionary: 


The present distinction in usage between /o/^ard and 
forwards is that the latter expresses a definite direction 
viewed in contrast with other directions. In some con- 
texts either form may be used without perceptible dif- 
ference of meaning; the following are examples in which 
only one of them can now be used: ^*The rachet-wheel 
can move only forwards^^; *Hhe right side of the paper 
has the maker's name reading forwards^ ^ ; "if you move 
at all it must be forwards^\' "my companion has gone 
forward^^ ; "to bring a matter forward^'; "from this time 
forward,^^ The usage of earlier periods, and of modem 
dialects, varies greatly from that of modern standard 
English. In the United States forward is now generally 
used, to the exclusion of forwards j which was stigmatized 
by Webster (1832) as ''a corruption.'' 

Four and five. 

For the construction ^^Four and five is (or are) 
nine/' see Are, 


Fragrance is any sweet or pleasing smell. Aroma 
applies primarily to spice, but is extended to other 
odors, ae those of coffee and cigars. Bouquet was a 
special term for the odor of wine, now extended to 
other odors. 


From is correctly used to indicate the grounds of 
a judgment or belief, in the sense of to judge from, as, 
''From the way he spoke, you would have thought 
he was angry." 

From is always redundant when used with whence, 
thence, and hence. Hence means from here; thence 


means from there; whence means from where; from 
whence would mean from from where. 


When full means having within its limits all it will 
hold, it is obviously incapable of comparison. When 
it means, as it legitimately may, containing abun- 
dance of, fuller would mean containing more abun- 
dance, or, more nearly approaching fullness. Com- 
pare complete, perfect, and others. 


Function is allowable as meaning a social meeting 
of a formal or important kind. It has, however, been 
so frequently applied to social gatherings of no im- 
portance that it has now very little meaning. 


Funny is correctly used to mean comical, but is 
colloquial as meaning odd, strange, without sugges- 
tion of mirth-provoking. 

See Farther. 


This word has long been in good use in its ordinaiy 
meanings, both as noun and as verb. If it seems col- 
loquial it is doubtless because of the inevitable lack 
of dignity in the things it describes. It has had a 
certain vogue as slang, meaning to seek, or spend time 
in, the company of women or girls. 



Future is sometimes misused for subsequent, ''He 
was ill then, but on a future occasion I saw him 
seemingly quite restored to health.'' The occasion 
is future (and non-existent) at the time denoted by 
the first verb {was), but subsequent at the time of 
writing. The past tense of the second verb {saw) 
makes the word future illogical. 

For in future, see In. 



See Commonly. 


Genius has nothing in common with genus except 
an Aryan root and a deceptive similarity of appear- 
ance. Genius means (most commonly) unusual 
natural gift, usually for creative art; genu^ means a 
class, kind, or group. 


The Oxford Dictionary thus describes the course run 
by this word: 

A few years before the middle of the nineteenth cen- 
tury the word was much ridiculed as being characteristic 
of those who are possessed with a dread of being taken 
for "common people/' or who attach exaggerated im- 
portance to supposed marks of social superiority. In 
seriously laudatory use it may now be said to be a vul- 
garism; in educated language it has always a sarcastic 
or at least playful coloring. 


It is interesting to note that it comes from a 
French word, gentilj which has several times been 
taken over into EngUsh. Gentle came first (in the 
thirteenth century), then gentile, jaunty, and genteel. 


Get has a wide variety of meanings and uses (some 
seventy have been classified), many of which are 
idiomatic, colloquial, and slangy. Of these, only a 
few need comment here. 

Got is not always redundant with have. ''I have 
just got a dollar'' ought to mean '^I have just now 
acquired a dollar"; ''I have just a dollar'' means 
*^I have a dollar; no more nor less." When it de- 
notes possession rather than acquisition, ^'I have got 
brains enough to understand that," it is no worse 
than colloquial; the best of us say it in familiar 
speech, but omit the got in anything more formal. 
In many cases have got represents a combination of 
the ideas of possession and acquisition, as, '^You 
have got my handkerchief," ^^I have got a cold." 
As denoting compulsion, '^I have got to go," it is a 
shade worse; in this sense it is set down as ^^collo- 
quial or vulgar." 

Gotten has more than once been condemned as 
obsolete, but still drags on a lingering existence, 
nursed by pedantic school-teachers. 

In such expressions as get home, get to the city, 
get means a little more than merely arrive; there is a 
sense of achievement in it; succeed in coming or going 
to defines it more nearly in this use, and as it is used 
in such phrases as get across, get over, and many 


others. This is a very old idiom. In other idioms 
such as get along, get away, get thee behind me, get 
seems more nearly equivalent to go, as it does in 
such an expression as get over the road. 

Get means become in various acceptable construc- 
tions, as, ''They soon got to be friends," ''The 
two privates soon got to be officers.'' This is old 
usage which sounds colloquial to-day. "The evil 
soon gets to be forgotten," is not a modern turn 
of speech. Get in the sense of find opportunity 
may be an extension of this use; it is now col- 
loquial or even vulgar in such expressions as "I 
couldn't get to do it," "get to go." Get with the 
infinitive is accepted in familiar speech in such 
phrases as "You get to like it after a while," 
"They got to talking." 

Get through in the sense of finish is often con- 
demned; it is, however, well-established idiom. It 
is not illogical if considered as an extension or figura- 
tive use of a phrase in which get means succeed in 
going, as, "We could not get through the under- 
brush." To be through in the sense of to have 
finished is not so well established; it is set down 
as colloquial. 

Get together in the sense of assemble is very old. 
It took on the added meaning of fraternize in slang 
recently, but is fast losing its suggestion of slang 
because it is not humorous. Its duration will prob- 
ably be determined by its utility. On get by, see 
"Guiding Principles," p. 9. Most of the other new 
coinages with get are still pure slang and need no 
further comment. 



See Donate. 

Give away. 

Give away in the sense of betray seems to be coming 
into good use. Dictionaries condemn it as slang in 
the sense of an unconscious self-betrayal, but call it 
colloquial in other senses of betray, as to betray a joke. 


Go has a great number of meanings and uses 
which are in the debatable lands of diction. The use 
of going as an auxiliary meaning about to, as in ^'I 
was just going to say/' has often been challenged. 
It has been an English idiom for four hundred years; 
the worst that can be said of it is that it is less formal 
than about to. 

We are told that such an expression as ''I will go a 
dollar on if must be avoided in refined society, 
probably because of its suggestion of the poker 
phrase, ^'See you and go you one better." Go better 
is a technical phrase of various card games, and 
when applied to other matters is figurative, but not 
necessarily slangy, nor any more vulgar than the 
game from which the metaphor is drawn. One legit- 
imate meaning of go is to carry one^s action to a sped- 
fied point of progress or completeness, as in ''if you 
go to that," ''go to the bottom," and the like. 
When the specified point is an offer or concession in 
some transaction, we have such a sentence as this 
of Macaulay's, " Lewis consented to go as high as 
twenty-five thousand crowns," which need not be 


avoided in any class of society. When the transac- 
tion is in a game of cards, we have such expressions 
as this from Goldsmith, ^^Men that would go forty 
guineas on a game of cribbage.'' If this is not vul- 
gar, it is perhaps because cribbage is more respectable 
than poker. The expression go a dollar on is not 
vulgar unless it is vulgarly used. 

A meaning of go applied to money is pass current: 
'^ Bank-notes, she supposes, will go everywhere.'' 
This meaning, perhaps, applies figuratively in that 
wonH go, used of a statement that is not acceptable 
at its face value. That wonH go down is used in the 
same sense; and we note that go down has long been 
idiomatic for to he swallowed, just as swallow has been 
metaphorically used to mean accept as truth. 

To go back on, meaning to prove disloyal to, to betray, 
is a colloquialism of American origin. 

Go for in the sense of aim at securing, Robert Louis 
Stevenson speaks of (in the Apology for Idlers) as an 
'^ emphatic Americanism." It is interesting to note 
that it is listed as a legitimate phrase that has been 
in use since the middle of the sixteenth century. 
In the sense of assail or attack, it is colloquial. 


To the good denoting a balance on the right side 
of the ledger, as, ''Ten dollars to the good," is a 
legitimate phrase. All to the good as an adjective 
phrase of general approbation is slang. 

For good and for good and all meaning finally are 
idiomatic and have long been in good use. 

To be any good, no good, some good (''It's no good 


talking," ''This isn't strong enough to be any 
good'') may pass current in familiar speech, but have 
no place in diction that aspires to dignity. 

Good deal may safely be accepted as good usage, 
though it is still set down as colloquial by some 

Good and well lead to some confusion because 
good is an adjective and well is both adjective and 
adverb; moreover, many of the verbs with which 
they are often used are of the class sometimes 
called ''inactive" (such as look, seem, appear , feel, 
taste, smell, and some others) which usually take 
the adjective rather than the adverb, as, "This 
tastes good." Thus we might have almost any com- 
bination, either adjective or adverb, with any of 
these verbs, in some conceivable meaning ; the words 
are misused when they might convey the wrong 
meaning. If we wish to say, "You appear to be in 
good health," we say, "You look well." "You look 
good" ought to mean "You appear to be virtuous." 
In "You look well" well is an adjective; if it were an 
adverb, the meaning would be, "You perform well 
the act of looking." "This doesn't go good," is 
incorrect, because go is not one of the verbs that 
are used with the adjective. "I feel good" and "I 
feel well" are both correct because good and well are 
both adjectives; well is better in this case because it 
means in good health, and that is what the expression 
most often means. 

Good use. 

See "Guiding Principles," pp. 3-10. 


Got and Gotten. 
See Get. 


Graduate is correctly used to mean either to admit 
to an academic degree or to take a degree. Thus one 
who takes the degree may be said to be graduated or 
to graduate. The modern tendency is to use the 
active form. Those who object to the active form 
say that *Hhe student does not graduate himself/' 
They do not, however, hesitate to say that he takes 
the degree. The word also applies to the finishing 
of a course of study which does not lead to a degree. 


Graft as noun and verb denoting illicit gain is still 
set down as colloquial by such dictionaries as rec- 
ognize it. There is little doubt, however, that it is 
coming into good use; it is often used now without 
apology by careful writers in dignified context. 


This is another of our general-utility words for 
persons of limited vocabulary. See also Fine, Nice, 
Elegant, Awful. 


In such phrases as great big, great is a colloquial 
adverb of emphasis. It is so also in a great, thick 
book when the idea is a very thick book. It is correct 
if it means a large book that is thick in contradistinc- 
tion to a small thick book. 



American dictionaries allow groom in the sense of 
bridegroom. It is not commonly used except in the 
phrase bride and groom. English dictionaries call it 


This appears as a modem slang or dialect forma- 
tion, but it seems to have an honorable history. 
An old word, grutch (both noun and verb), dropped 
out of use, leaving the adjective grouchy as its repre- 
sentative, at least in New England. Grouch seems to 
come from the adjective, a modern noun to correspond 
with the old grutch now obsolete. It has already 
gained wide acceptance, and bids fair to hold its place.^ 


Become is a legitimate meaning of grow, and has 
been so from the earliest use of the word, as in 
''growing old,'' ''times grew worse,'' and the like. 


Guess is properly used to mean conjecture. The 
colloquial use of it, so often called an Americanism 
and severely condemned, is like conjecture in that it 
involves some uncertainty; the difference is that 
it expresses nothing but the uncertainty, and is 
equivalent to perhaps ("I guess I'd better be go- 
ing"), whereas in the sense of conjecture it means 
to form an approximate judgment without data. An- 
other colloquial American use of the word is to 

^ For the material of this note on Gromh I am indebted to Prof. 
G. L. Kittredge. 


express complete certainty by quasi-humorous un- 
derstatement, ^^I guess you'll be warm enough 
now.'' These two American uses of guess are 
neither vulgar nor provincial; merely colloquial. 

''I guess it is going to rain," indicates that the 
speaker has not sufficient grounds on which to base 
judgment. *^I suppose it is going to rain" indicates 
that the speaker has some grounds for the judgment. 
'^I think it is going to rain" ought to mean that the 
speaker has thought about the matter, but is still 
in doubt. When he has no doubt he might say, *^I 
believe It is going to rain." 



See Custom. 

Had better, Had rather, Had have, etc. 
See Have. 


In half and in (or into) halves are equally correct in 
such sentences as, * ' Cut the loaf in half." With halves, 
two is always redundant. Other idiomatic phrases 
are half and half, by halves, to go halves, and the Uke. 

Half-baked in the sense of immature, unfinished, 
crude, especially as applied to things and ideas, is an 
acceptable figure of speech. As applied to persons, 
and meaning silly, half-witted, it is slang or dialect. 


Workman is an old idiomatic meaning of hand, 
especially at sea, as all hands. As apphed to other 


matters, all hands is colloquial, as, ''After the game, 
all hands went swinaming/' See also Underhand , 
Second hand. 

See Cupful. 


The commoner meanings of handy are, ready to 
handy near at handy conveniently accessiblCy ready for 
v^Cy convenient to handlcy and, of a i>erson, dexterous. 
Convenient also means suitable for use or for special 
uses, but is colloquial in the sense of ready to hand, 
or of expedient. Thus it is convenient to have a 
screw-driver always handy. See also Convenient. 


This word has a devious and complicated history, 
of which we need note no more than that at one 
time it was a weak verb (see Glossary, Part III), and 
from the fact that it was so conjugated in early ver- 
sions of the Bible, and in the phrase of the law courts, 
*' Hanged by the neck until he be dead,'' hanged is 
now the accepted form for the preterit and past 
participle when the word means to put to death by 
hanging. Doubtless the imprecation '' I'll be hanged " 
helped also to fix the form; here the form is deter- 
mined, in part at least, by its value as a compromise 


Transpire is not a synonym for happen. Happen 
means occur; transpire means become known. An 


accident, for example, might not transpire until long 
after it happened. Happen strictly applies to oc- 
currences in which there is a manifest element of 
chance; a wedding, for example, usually takes place 
rather than happens. In ordinary speech, however, 
happen seems to have lost much of its significance of 

Happen in for make a casual call is set down as an 
Americanism by English dictionaries, and as col- 
loquial by American dictionaries. Happen in with 
for meet, or happen to meet, is not in good use. 


See Can^t hardly. 

Hardly is not to be distinguished from scarcely in 
meaning and use. Hardly originally meant vrith 
difficulty; scarcely must at first have meant some- 
thing like rarely; now both mean barely, only just, 
almost not. Their position in the sentence is like 
that of only, just before the word they limit, unless 
there can be no ambiguity in another position. '^I 
hardly think I can help you" means ^^I think only 
with difficulty." ^'I think I can hardly help you" 
means ^^I think I can help you only with difficulty." 
'^I can't help you at all hardly" is at best highly 
colloquial, meaning, '^I can help you not at all, or 
at best very little. 



There is practically no distinction made now be- 
tween hasten and hurry, — unless it be that hasten 
has almost disappeared from our spoken language 


and become a literary word. Hurry originally car- 
ried an idea of agitation and confusion which did not 
belong to hasten^ but to-day it would not be a misuse 
of the word to say, *^He turned, and coolly hurried 
toward the woods, keeping his eye warily on his 


See Dislike. 


Hod better and similar constructions are thus ex- 
plained by Professors Kittredge and Greenough in 
Words and Their Ways in English Speech: 

A peculiar idiom with the preterit subjunctive had 
survives in a few phrases. Thus, "I had as lief go as 
stay," ^'You had better not do this," '^We had rather ride 
than walk." In this particular use had is really the preterit 
subjunctive of have in the sense of *' regard." The meaning 
may be clearly seen in the first example, I had as lief, 
"I should regard it as as pleasant to go as to stay." The 
extension of the same construction to had rather is due 
to analogy. Naturally I had, we had, etc., were contracted 
to Fdy wed, etc., in these phrases (as elsewhere), and 
many persons suppose that / had in the expressions just 
quoted is a mistaken expansion of Id (the contraction of 
I would). Such a notion is not strange, since this use of 
had is confined to so small a number of phrases. The 
result has been a determined attempt to stigmatize the 
idiom as an error, and to substitute I would rather, I would 
better, etc., for it. The idiom, however, is perfectly es- 
tablished, has been in use for centuries, and has been 
habitually employed by the best writers. In some cases 


the substitution of I would results in downright error. 
Thus, ^*I would better go'' is positively ungrammatical. 

In older English the indicative have and hath are 
common in such phrases, as well as the subjunctive had. 

''Yet have I lever e maken him good chere 
In honour than myn ernes {%. e., uncle's) lyf to lese.'' 
—Chaucer, ''Troilus," ii, 471-2. 

The meaning ^'hold," "regard" (cf. Lat. habere), is also 
seen in such phrases as "I pray thee have me excused," 
X. e.j not ^^ procure an excuse for me," but ^^hold me excused 
in your own mind," ''pardon me." 

In the case of idioms like "I had better," one fre- 
quently hears the objection that had "will not parse." 
As a matter of fact, it will parse easily enough, if one 
knows how to parse it. But the objection would have no 
validity even if the phrases were grammatically inex- 
plicable. The grammarian has no business to object to 
an established idiom, for idioms are superior to paradigms 
and analytical diagrams. Grammar was made pretty 
imperfectly from language, not language from grammar. 

Have seen rather than saw (the perfect rather than 
the preterit tense) is called for in such sentences as 
''That is the tallest man I have ever seen." This is 
because the verb must logically refer to all past time 
up to the present (perfect tense) and not to a single 
point of past time (preterit). 

For a discussion of have with got, see Got. 

The vulgar "If I had have known," and similar 
constructions, perhaps arise from a telescoping of the 
two expressions, ''If I had known" and "I ought to 
have known." The confusion is complete when the 


have is written as it is often pronounced, of: '^If I 
had of known." This construction is one of the hall- 
marks of illiteracy. 

HavenH only is a double negative, a construction 
condemned as illogical in modern English. *'I have 
only one pencil" is the correct form. This is, of 
course, a different construction from that in the 
sentence, ^'I have not only met him, but dined with 
him." Here, by the way, have not are not con- 
tracted in speech because the not is emphatic. 

Have to is idiomatic to denote obligation. See ex- 
planation of the construction under Is. 

He was given. 
See TFos. 


The modem tendency is to use healthful to mean 
wholesome, health-giving, and healthy to mean having 
good health. 


From Anglo-Saxon times down to the time of 
Shakespeare one of the accepted meanings of heap 
was a great company, a multitude. Later, some time 
in the seventeenth century, it came to mean simply 
a large number or a great deal, in which sense it is in 
colloquial use to-day. 


Hear has always been properly used in the sense of 
listen to with compliance or consent, as in ^'hear our 


prayer." Hear to, however, in the sense of consent 
or consent to ('^he wouldn't hear to if) is colloquial. 


In such expressions as "I cannot help it," help 
means remedy y prevent y cause to be otherwise. In ^'I 
won't do it any more than I can't help," help means 
avoidy refrain from, forbear. In this sense the 
auxiliary should be negative in form (cannot) y since 
the meaning is ^^I will do so no more than I can not 
avoid doing." 

Help meaning servant or servants is said by British 
dictionaries to be local or provincial usage. At all 
events it is justly condemned. 

For cannot help but, see But. 


See From hence. 

For use of pronouns in -selfy see Myself. 

Her going. 
See Me. 


This word came into slang, meaning to tramp or 
a long trampy about the time of the Spanish- American 
War. It has since passed into colloquial use, and is 
now used in newspapers and periodicals without the 
apology of quotation marks. It is not safe to 
prophesy that it will get farther. 




For comment on him and me, see But. 

On him for hi^s in such sentences as '^I don't mind 
his doing it," see Me. 

Him and himself, see Myself. 


For the use of his after the indefinite pronoun, see 
One and Any one. 


Hit is legitimately used to mean a fortunate chance y 
as, '*a lucky hit,'' and a successful stroke made in 
performance or action of any kind. In such meanings 
it has often been unjustly condemned as slang. To 
the modern American it sounds Uke a metaphor from 
baseball, but it is much older than the game. It was 
at one time set down as a bit of theatrical slang; 
the fact is that it is not slang in itself, and is an 
obvious figure of speech that might arise from any 
one of a large number of sports or occupations. 
It may be awkwardly or slangily used, but is not to 
be condemned in itself. 

Hold up. 

Hold up meaning to stop by force and rob is in fairly 
good use in the United States. The more recent 
slang phrase stick up is said to be of Australian origin. 


Home as an adverb, as in "I am going home," was 
'^ originally the accusative case of the noun home in 


its primary sense as the case of destination after a 
verb of motion '' {Oxford Dictionary). Thus it is 
idiomatically used to mean to home, but not to mean 
at honiCy as ^^She is home/' 

Home should be distinguished from house; the 
house is the building; the home is the building to- 
gether with the associations, particularly those of 
family life. 


Honorable is an adjective, not a title. It should 
always, except, perhaps, in addressing an envelope, 
be preceded by the and followed by Mr. or the name, 
as, The Honorable Mr. Smith, or. The Honorable 
Thomas J. Smith. To call a man Hon. Smith is no 
more idiomatic than to call him clever Smith (or clev. 
Smith), or to use any other adjective without the 
article. See also Rev. 

Names of ordinary occupations, even though they 
be political, should be distinguished from titles. 
To say that Town Clerk Jones met Architect Brown 
and Grocer Robinson on the street, and that the 
three went to the office of Monkey-wrench Manu- 
facturer Smith, gives us a titled democracy little 
short of fantastic. 


The plural form is granunatically correct and has 
long been in use in the phrase in hopes (''I was in 
hopes to see you'O and in other places where the 
singular would also be correct, as in the following 
sentence from Macaulay: *' Great hopes were enter- 

138 e\t:ry-day words and their uses 

tained at Whitehall that Comish would appear to 
have been concerned: but these hopes were disap- 

See Awful. 


*'In United States colloquial speech ^How?' is used 
in asking for the repetition of something not quite 
understood" {Oxford Dictionary), This use is uni- 
versally condemned by American authorities. 

As an adverb in interrogative and other uses, how 
means primarily in what manner. It is, however, 
idiomatically used with weakened meaning (little 
idea of way or manner) as hardly more than equiva- 
lent to that in introducing clauses after verbs of saying 
and the like. 

"They told her how upon Saint Agnes' Eve 
Young virgins might see visions of delight/' 

As how in this sense belongs only in dialect. 


However is colloquial when used interrogatively to 
mean how in any circumstances or way whatever, as, 
*' However could you do it?" It is correctly used to 
mean in whatever manner, by whatever means (not 
interrogative), as, ^'However it was done, it was 
finished at last." 

Humariitariari is now universally used to mean 


humane, philanthropic, and is rarely used in any other 
sense. In its primary meaning it appears only 
rarely, as a technical word. 

See Hang. 


In the sense of strong, powerful, this word is recog- 
nized by recent American dictionaries as in colloquial 
use in the United States. It is probably the same 
word as husky, a corruption of Eskimo, applied to 
Eskimo dogs, whose most conspicuous trait is en- 


Hypocritical means assuming a false appearance of 
virtue. Hypercritical means over, unduly, unneces- 
sarily critical. The two should not be confused. 



Such sentences as ^'She gave it to you and I," 
''It isn't for he or I to deny it,'' are as grossly incor- 
rect as ''Him and me went." "She gave it to you 
and me," is correct for the same reason that "She 
gave it to me," is correct; the pronoun should be 
in the objective case as object of the preposition to. 

For a discussion of such constructions as "No one 
was at home but I," see But, For cases of other 
pronouns in various constructions, see the various 
pronouns. He, She, Her, We, They, etc. 


For / mistake not, see Mistaken. 

For I don't knmo as I do, see As. 

In such a sentence as '*I don't know but (or but 
tliat) I might," meanmg ^'Perhaps I might/' hut has 
its negative force, — ''I do not know that I might 
not." See But. 

I guess I will is a colloquial expression for / think I 
shall. Will expresses determination or promise; 
guess expresses uncertainty; the two are incompat- 
ible. See Guess and Shall. 

For the use of the subjunctive in such sentences 
as / unsh I were, see Were. 

It is me has now so many ardent advocates that 
we may make our choice between saying, ^^It is I," 
and being called pedantic by one party, or saying, 
**It is me," and being called ungrammatical by the 
other. Most of us prefer to avoid the construction. 


Idea, we are told, must be distinguished from 
opinion; but the distinction is not easy to make. 
Idea had originally nearly the meaning we now at- 
tach to ideal, and still signifies mental image, vision. 
In so far as it suggests the ideal, it suggests also a 
certain remoteness from fact which runs through its 
extended or looser uses. Thus it means '^a notion 
or thought more or less imperfect, indefinite, or 
fanciful; a vague belief, opinion, or estimate; a 
supposition, impression, fancy" (Oxford Dictionary). 
Accordingly, even such a sentence as '^I have an 
idea that it is going to rain" does not necessarily 
mean merely ''It is my opinion that it will rain," but 


may mean '^It is my more or less fanciful and vague 
opinion, etc/' To express a more definite opinion, 
we should say I think or / believe. (See Guess.) In 
'^What is your idea of so and so?'^ (Mrs. Todgers's 
idea of a wooden leg, for example) it may mean 
mental image. In the exclamations, ^' What an idea!'' 
''Why, the idea!'' the speaker implies that the no- 
tion is fanciful, does not correspond with the facts. 
It is not safe to assume that idea is misused wherever 
opinion could be substituted. 

See ''Guiding Principles,'' p. 3. 


See Whether. 


Ilk is erroneously used to mean family, class, set. 
It is an old word, as an adjective meaning same and 
as pronoun meaning each, surviving now in Scottish 
dialect. Its misuse arises from its appearance in 
Scottish territorial titles and designations, as, "Keith 
of that ilk," meaning of the same — i.e., "Keith of 
Keith" as distinguished from Keith of Ravelstone 
or of some other estate. In such designations it has 
been misunderstood, and we get such anomalies as 
"Squeezles was one of the immemorial ilk of the 
minstrel people." 


Ill and sick may be used almost interchangeably. 
The difference is that ill is used idiomatically as a 


predicate adjective, as, ''The child is ill,'' but not as 
a mere attributive, as, ''That is an ill child,'' — as an 
attributive ill means evil, as, "111 tongues shall 
wound me." Sick has become more or less re- 
stricted in England — and so to some extent in the 
United States — to the meaning of nauseated, but the 
restriction cannot be maintained when we need an 
attributive adjective. Unwell has also received 
through a euphemism a special meaning which has 
nearly put it out of general use. 

See Delusion. 

Vm not. 
See AinH. 

See Directly. 

See Emerge. 

See Emigrant. 

See Eminence. 


Immunity means exemption from service, duty, 
liability; in general, freedom from usual liabilities or 
from things evil or injurious (as disease). Impunity 


means freedom from penalty or punishment. Thus, 
*^ You cannot commit murder with impunity/' means, 
'^You cannot commit murder and expect immunity 
from punishment.'' 


Imperative is distinguished from imperious in that 
it is not appUed to persons, whereas imperious is 
apphed to both persons and things, mainly to com- 
mands. Imperative most often means urgent, de^ 
manding obedience; imperious commonly means com- 
mandingy having a commanding aspect or demeanor. 


Implicate and involve are as nearly synonymous as 
English words ever are; to say that 'involve is used 
in the affairs of life that are only troublesome, 
implicate in those that are criminal,'' is to disregard 
the facts. In the sense of comprise (''This question 
involves the other") involve is the commoner word, 
but implicate is correct. In the sense of to include in 
a charge, to cause to he concerned in wrong-doing, 
implicate is perhaps more often used to-day, but 
involved has always been used with this meaning. 


A secondary (ecclesiastical) meaning of implicit is, 
not independently arrived at by the individual (but 
involved in the general faith of the church, — involved 
is the primary meaning of implicit), hence unques- 
tioning, hence absolute. The word cannot be used 
indiscriminately in all senses of absolute, but is cor- 


rectly used only in harmony with the ecclesiastical 
sense. Thus it is applied to belief y confidence^ obe- 
dience, submission, and the like, but not to ignorance. 


See Immunity. 


The Latin imputare, from which we get impute, 
means to bring into the reckoning. Thus impute is 
usually used of matters involving blame or fault. 
It is, however, correctly but not commonly used to 
mean merely ascribe, to assign without suggestion of 
blame; this use seems to arise from a special 
theological significance of the word illustrated in 
''Christ's righteousness was imputed to man.'^ 


The primary distinction between in and into is 
that into is used after verbs of motion, in after other 
verbs. In Anglo-Saxon, however, in with the ac- 
cusative meant into, and still has that meaning in 
certain constructions, particularly as a preposition 
with an object after such verbs as cast, fall, lay, put, 
throw, thrust, divide, split, break; as, ''Throw it in 
the fire," "Break it in three pieces,'' and various 
idiomatic phrases. Adverbial in is used after verbs 
of motion, come, go, walk, etc., a fact which may have 
helped to make the use of the preposition idiomatic. 

Into should not be used for in to where the in 
belongs with the verb and the to with the succeeding 
words, as, "I waded in to where I had seen it sink." 


In is often used in England where Americans use 
on. We speak of traveling on the boat, the train, the 
car; of meeting a friend, transacting business, owning 
a house, on the street; and the Uke. One is as 
logical as the other; we may think of the house, for 
example, as fronting on the street, or as standing 
within an area which we think of as the street. 
Certainly on is in good use in these senses in the 
United States. For the distinction between at and 
in in such phrases, see At. 

In future and in the future are both in good use, and 
equally correct. In future is doubtless elliptical for 
in future time, in which future is an adjective, and the 
is unnecessary. In the other phrase, future is a noun. 
The fact that we have no such phrase as in past has 
nothing to do with the matter. 

The expression in our midst has held its place in the 
face of a storm of criticism for more than a hundred 
years, and may safely be accepted now without 
further cavil. It was long condemned as an inno- 
vation, the older phrase being in the midst of. 

In spite of means exactly the same as notwithstand- 
ing, except that it is perhaps a little more forcible. 
It is entirely acceptable in this sense. 

In town is acceptable after verbs of motion (see 
discussion of in and into above). The two words 
constitute an adverbial phrase analogous to up town, 
down town, indicating direction. 

In, we are told, is superfluous in the phrase in so 
far. If so, it is too late to make a change; in was so 
completely a part of the phrase in the sixteenth cen- 
tury that the words were printed as one, insofar. 


In time usually means a little early, with a margin 
to spare. On time means exactly at the appointed 
timey neither early nor late. It is used most often of 
trains, or other means of conveyance, but cannot be 
condemned as railroad slang. It is in essence what 
Francisco says to Bernardo (in ''Hamlet"); '^You 
come most carefully upon your hour/' 

In it, and not in it, had some vogue as slang a few 
years ago, but they have been long in use to mean 
in the running, and not a competitor. 

In for it meaning committed to a course and certain 
to meet with punishment or something disagreeable has 
been in use for at least two centuries. It is always 
familiar, or mildly colloquial. 

Participial clauses introduced by in are often 
loosely used: ''In reading this book I did not get a 
very clear idea of what it is about.'' If the clause 
means anything, it means "As I read," or "At the 
time I was reading." "In describing these scenes, 
his description is very vivid." Here the clause 
should be omitted, or else the sentence should read 
"His description of these scenes is very vivid." See 
similar clauses under By. 


No distinction appears in meaning between inas- 
much and insomuch. In construction, inasmuch is 
followed by as; insomuch by either as or that. 


Inaugurate as applied to a course of action is de- 
fined by Dr. Johnson as " to begin with good omens." 


It applies to something of importance begun with a 
significant act or formal ceremony. To use it as 
meaning nothing more than begin is empty pom- 
posity of diction. 


See Excite. 

See Enclose. 


The plural may be either indexes or indices. There 
seems to be some tendency to use indices when the 
word means a token or indication, and indexes when 
it means an alphabetical list of subjects or names. 


Indict means to bring a charge against, accuse. 
Indite means write or compose. Thus we indict a per- 
son, but indite a poem or a letter. 


Individual properly means, as most commonly 
used, a single human being as opposed to Society, or to 
some group, as family or church. As meaning simply 
a person it is colloquial, vulgar, or humorous, as: 

Now I hold it is not proper for a scientific gent 
To say another is an ass, at least to all intent; 
Nor should the individual who happens to be meant 
Reply by heaving rocks at him, to any great extent. 
—Bret Harte, ''The Society upon the Stanislaus/' 


See Endorse. 

See Deduction. 

See Contagious. 


Informed^ usually qualified by well or ill, means 
instructed, edux^ated, intelligent. Posted means sup- 
plied with full information; it is narrower in meaning 
than informed; to be supplied with information is not 
necessarily to be intelligent. It is a conamercial 
figure, from the posting of a ledger. 


Ingenious usually means resourceful or clever in 
invention and construction. Ingenuous most com- 
monly means frank, candid. Good usage of to-day 
demands that the two be kept apart. 

Innumerable number. 

This phrase is so obviously tautological that it 
needs no discussion. 

See Enclose. 


Intend and mean in their chief current senses are 
interchangeable. In such a sentence as ''What do 


you intend by these words?" most speakers would 
use meaUy but intend is correct. 


See Discover. 


See Implicate. 

See Aggravate. 


See Eruption. * 


For ^' Twice one is two/^ see Are. See also other 
constructions under Be. 

The controversy which raged loud and long over 
the use of the participle in such constructions as is 
being built, has now died down and ceased. The 
construction has resisted all assaults, and is now 
firmly fixed in the language. 

Is come is an idiomatic expression seldom heard 
to-day unless it be understood in such contractions 
as '^Your car's come, sir.'' In it, come is perhaps 
felt as an adjective, as if it were '^Your car is 
here," or else as a transitive verb that might have a 
passive conjugated with to be, like strike (passive 
is struck). Be was formerly used to form perfect 
tenses with intransitive verbs, but it has been, 
as the Oxford Dictionary tells us, '^Now largely 
displaced by have after the manner of transitive 


verbs: be being retained only with come, go, rise, 
set, fall, arrive, depart, grow, and the Hke, when we 
express the condition or state now attained rather 
than the action of reaching it, as Hhe sun is set/ 
'our guests are gone/ ' Babylon is fallen/ ' the children 
are all grown up/'* Is come, moreover, might 
signify has this moment come, whereas has come 
might indicate arrival at any time up to the present. 
This difference in tense is the main distinction be- 
tween is received and ho^ been received as they are 
used in acknowledging letters. For other passive 
constructions, see Was. 

Is and other forms of to be are correctly used with 
the infinitive in such constructions as '^It was to be,'' 
*^The cause is far to seek,'' indicating necessity, obli- 
gation, or duty. Have is now more common in such 
constructions, — ''I have to do it." 

IsnH hardly, isnH scarcely, are double negatives. 
See CanH hardly. Hardly, Scarcely. 

IsnH but one is probably elliptical for ''There isn't 
(any number or quantity) but one." Whether un- 
grammatical or illogical, it may be accepted as 
idiomatic in familiar speech. More formally we 
should say there is but one, or, there is only one. 


Take issue and join issue mean in ordinary use to 
engage {join) in controversy. Join issue should never 
be used to mean to come to an agreement. . 

It is I. 



Its is the possessive form of the pronoun it. It^s 
is the contraction of it is. 

" Jar you.'* 
See p. 6. 


This verb is a humorous or vulgar back-formation 
from the noun jelly. It has no standing except as a 
joke; when the sculptor sculps and the burglar 
burgles y we may allow the jelly to jell. 

**Jump on.'*. 
See p. 6. 


Junior is not a title, like Esquire, but part of the 
name to which it is appended. As a part of the 
name it is used with either Mr, or Esq. (but not with 
both. See Esq. and Mr.). To address a letter to 
John J ones y Jr., is no more courteous than to address 
it to John Jones. 



For kick, meaning object, see ''Guiding Principles," 

p. 9. The Oxford Dictionary gives ''to show 

temper, annoyance, defiance, dislike, etc.; to rebel, 

be recalcitrant. To kick against or at, to object 

strongly to, rebel against, reject with anger or 


scom; to spurn/' with examples going back to the 
fourteenth century. 


Kid meaning child was a piece of low slang in the 
seventeenth century. It has lately passed into col- 
loquial and familiar diction. 


Kind of as adjective and adverb, kind of a, and 
these kind, are widely current in colloquial speech, 
but are in general to be avoided in formal diction. 
Phrases like all kinds of birds, this kind of bird, are 
legitimate. In this kind of a man the a is at best 
redundant. But when kind o' becomes a meaning- 
less adjective or adverb (^^I was kind o' hangin' 
round '0 indicating that the speaker is not sure of 
anything enough to say it positively, it is merely a 
bad habit. For those kind, these kind, see That. 

Know as. 
See As. 



In its chief current use, lady, the Oxford Dictionary 
tells us, ^^is applied to all women above a loosely 
defined and variable, but usually not very elevated, 
standard of social position.'' In just so far as the 
word is insisted on by women of inferior social posi- 
tion, it is avoided by those whose social position is 



Last twOy last three, and the like are now the estab- 
lished phrases for two last, etc. See First. 

Last is accepted as meaning latest, especially in 
current phrases such as the last number of a period- 
ical, though no one is accused of over-scrupulousness 
who says the latest number. Last means most lately 
in such expressions as '^ When did you see him last?" 

In speaking of one of two objects, a careful speaker 
uses latter rather than last; in speaking of more than 
two, he uses last. In general, this distinction is not 
considered a necessary one. 


Laundry is a noun, not a verb. The verb is launder, 
of which the past participle is laundered. 

See Lie. 


Learn in the sense of teach was good English 
down to or through the eighteenth century, but is 
now vulgar. 


Leave is acceptable in the sense of go away from, 
with the name of the place left, as leave Boston, leave 
the house. In absolute construction, without the 
name of the place, as, ^^We leave at ten o'clock/' 
it is set down as colloquial. 

Leave is incorrectly used for let in such expressions 


as ''Leave me be.'' ''Leave me alone'' is correct if 
it means "Go away and leave me to myself." 
Leave should not be confused with lief. See Lief. 


The difference between lend and loan is that lend 
as a verb and loan as a noun are universally in good 
use; loan as a verb, applied chiefly to money, was 
in good use universally in the seventeenth century, 
but fell into disuse in England during the eighteenth 
century, and remains in the United States as one of 
many seventeenth-century survivals. It is allow- 
able in America as applied to money matters and 
more or less formal transactions in other commodities, 
but condenmed as colloquial or worse in other uses. 

See Endwise. 


Lengthy is a word of colonial American origin. It 
usually means long with an added implication of 
tedious prolixity y and is conomonly applied to ser- 
mons, discussions, and the like. In this sense it is 
a sufficiently useful word, but when it is applied 
merely to physical length, as a lengthy rope, it falls 
into the class of superfluous formations like the 
nouns attractiveness for attraction, distinctiveness for 
distinction, preparedness for preparation, etc. 


Less is now regarded as incorrectly used when ap- 
plied to measures of number. See Fewer. 

■Y -i 


Lesser, really a double compajr-sttifyfe^^applies more 
or less technically to one of two p^jects or persons in 
contradistinction i;o greater, as, the^jfjesser Bear (a con- 
stellation), Ajaxihe Lesser. Lec^ applies similarly 
to one of a larger ^roup, as, the Least Fw-catcher. 

Let. : % 

LeVs is a contraction for let us. Thus^ the vul- 
garisms leVs us, i^^s you and I will not bear analysis. 
Let alone is colfoquial or familiar meaning not to 
mention, as, '^I cot^dn't even find a useful man, let 
alone an honest one?V 

Let up and let up on meaning stop are slangy or 
colloquial Americanisms. Let-up as a noun is per- 
haps in somewhat better standing. 

See Apt. 


Strictly, libel is written or printed defamation; 
slander is oral or spoken. In ordinary speech the dis- 
tinction is not made. 


The distinction between lie and lay is that lay is the 
causative verb from lie, means to cause to lie, and so is 
necessarily transitive, — not even a hen can lay with- 
out laying something. When lay means to cause 
oneself to lie, the reflexive pronoun is the object, as, 
"Now I lay me (myself) down to sleep.'' The 
principal parts of lie are lie, lay, lain; of lay, they are 
lay, laid, laid. Note that the form laid does not 


occur in the verb lie. Thus when the faiiy ^'laid a 
spell on the lake/' she did not, as the New England 
child supposed, lie down for a short period of repose 
on its surface. 


Lief as an adjective means pleasant or agreeable; 
as an adverb it means gladly y willingly. I had as lief 
and / would as lief are both idiomatic; for explana- 
tion and discussion of them see Had rather. 


Life is often used in a collective or generalized 
sense, as, '^The loss of life was enormous. '^ This 
is what it usually means in such a sentence as ''They 
lived in misery all their life.'' ''All their lives" 
would be correct if the speaker were thinking of in- 
dividual Uves, not of the collective stock of life. 


Lift in the sense of steal is called obsolete by 
American dictionaries, and in the sense of steal 
cattle^ colloquial. This is not a modern slang mean- 
ing of lifty to elevate, but a much older word, the 
Gothic hlifan (earlier than Anglo-Saxon). It is to 
give the archaic tone rather than that of modern slang 
that Kipling uses it in the line, "And he has lifted 
the Colonel's mare, which is the Colonel's pride." 
It survives in good use in the word shoplifter. 


Lighted and lit may be used indiscriminately as 
past tense and past participle of the verb to light. 


Lighted is usually used as attributive adjective, as, 
a lighted match^ lighted torches y etc., but even in this 
use lit is not incorrect, — witness Browning's phrase 
^Hhe unlit lamp." 


The commonest abuse of like is its misuse as a con- 
junction to introduce a clause containing a finite 
verb, as, ^^They make brushes like they make the 
brooms.'^ In such sentences the clause (^Hhey make 
brooms '0 should be introduced by as. This use of 
like as a conjunction, the Oxford Dictionary tells us, 
is ''now generally condemned as vulgar or slovenly, 
though examples may be found in many recent 
writers of standing.'^ A recent German student of 
American idiom (Dr. A. D. Schooch, in The Little 
Yankee) tells us that we commonly say ''It looks 
like it might rain.'' If we do, our speech is slovenly 
according to our own standards. 

Like is often an adverb with something of the force 
of a preposition, as in such sentences as, "You act 
like a fool,'' "Don't talk like that," "I worked like a 
beaver." Its prepositional forces may be seen from 
the fact that it takes an object in the objective case: 
"She looks like him," "That's just like her!" See 
also As. 

As a verb, the use of like with a direct object and 
infinitive, as, "Should you like me to play the 
minuet?" is not condemned. Like to in such ex- 
pressions as "he had like to have fallen," or, "liked 
to have fallen," meaning almost fell, was once in good 
use, but is now heard only in vulgar speech or dialect. 


As an adjective, like should be used rather than 
love when it means be pleased vrith or find pleasure in, 
as, '^I like strawberries,'' and instead of such expres- 
sions as, '*I adore lobster/' '^I dote on chocolate 

See ApL 


Limited properly means restricted. As applied to 
circumstances, it means narrow. When a merchant 
advertises *^a few of these choice sets for sale at a 
limited price," he does not mean to imply that 
usually there is no limit to the price, but merely 
that the price is low, — and he would do much better 
to say so. / 


The Oxford Dictionary places side by side two in- 
teresting examples of the use of this word in a sense 
sometimes condemned. One is from a letter of Dr. 
Johnson's to Mrs. Thrale, 20 September, 1773 : ''See- 
ing things in this light, I consider every letter as 
something in the line of duty." The other is from 
Boswell's Life of Johnson (1791): ''Johnson was . . . 
prompt to repress colloquial barbarisms . . . such as 
line for departmenty or branch, as the civil line, the 
banking line." The word has been in fairly good use 
in this sense since the early seventeenth century. 
It has perhaps suffered somewhat of late from having 
become more or less technical in certain commercial 
uses, as "a line of goods," "What's your line?" 


Lines meaning the reins of a harness is an Amer- 

Along these lines and its variants is a metaphor so 
worn and faded from use and abuse that it may well 
be discharged from further service. 


See Light. 

Live at. 
See At and On. 


In this abbreviation, meaning Doctor of Laws, and 
LL.B.y Bachelor of Laws, note that the two Us are 
not abbreviations of two words, but indicate a plural, 
as pp, for pages J ff. for pages following. There should 
be no period after the first L. 

See Lend. 


This word seems much more at home in American 
than in British vocabularies. It was used very 
early in the history of the colonies, seemingly in the 
sense now set down by American dictionaries as 
colloquial, to establish oneself in a place, to settle. 
It is said to be '^chiefly U. S." in the senses (1) to 
establish the limits or position of, and (2) to fix or es- 
tablish in a place, as, ^'I shall try to locate him in the 
country, and, ''The store was located opposite the 
church." It is universally allowed in the sense of 


discover the exact place ofy as, '^locate the enemy's 
battery," but has not found its way into the dic- 
tionaries in the ordinary sense oi fiiid, as, ^'I could 
not locate my fountain-pen." 


For look J seem, and similar verbs with adjectives, 
see Good. 


A lot or lots meaning a great deal is imiversally 
called colloquial. 


Both loud and loudly are correctly used as adverbs. 
We have, for example, Shakespeare's '^The rites of 
war speak loudly for him," and Campbell's : 

Where the battle rages loud and long, 
And the stormy winds do blow. 


See Like. 


Lovely as a vague term of approbation is collo- 
quial, and meaningless as it applies to all things, from 
an ice-cream soda to the Grand Canon of the Colo- 
rado. If the speaker has but one word for these 
two, clearly it is the right word for neither. See 
Fascinating y Nice, Awful, and others. 

See Cheap. 



As a noun, lunch is now the usual word rather than 
luncheon. Luncheon seems to have been the earher 
word, and many still prefer it for formal use. As a 
verb meaning to take lunch, lunch is the only form. 


Lurid does not mean bright y but ^'giving a ghastly 
or dull red Ught as of flames seen through smoke" 
(Standard Dictionary). In a figurative sense as ap- 
plied to fiction it means sensational. 


Luxuriant means producing abundantly, growing 
profusely. Luxurious means characterized by luxury. 



Mad meant originally insane, beside oneself, out of 
one's mind. The meaning has been more or less re- 
stricted at times to madness produced by one or 
another specific cause, as drink, folly, enthusiasm, 
desire, and to-day most frequently, anger. In the 
ordinary sense of angry it is condemned with varying 
degrees of severity from '^ dialect" to '^colloquial." 
Shakespeare's use of the word has been cited from 
the ''Merchant of Venice": 

Now, in faith, Gratiano, 
You give your wife too unkind a cause of grief; 
An 'twere to me, I would be mad at it. 


Here Tuad need not necessarily mean merely angry; 
more probably beside imjself (with anger or vexation), 
as it must be in '^Julius Caesar/' ''It would inflame 
me, it would make me mad.'' We have it also in 
Acts xxvi:ll, ^'And being exceedingly mad against 
them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities." 
Here it probably meant furious to the translator. 


Dear Madam is the proper salutation of a formal 
letter to a woman, whether she be married or unmar- 
ried. The form for the plural is mesdames. The 
French form of the singular, madamey is also accept- 
able in English, but the other is much more commonly 


Mail is acceptable in the United States in the gense 
of post both as noun and as verb. 


In its common meaning, majority means a number 
which is more than half the whole number; plurality 
means excess over some other number, usually the next 
largest. Majority takes a plural verb when the 
speaker indicates the individuals composing it, as, 
''The majority of those present were Republicans.'' 
It is singular as an abstract noun, as, ''His majority 
was very large.'* 


Make has various special meanings which give 
rise to more or less colloquial phrases. It means 


acquire by effort, as in ''make money"; arrive at, as 
of a ship ''making'' land or harbor; gOy as in "He 
made for the door." As appHed to trains ("I think 
I can make the 10.20") it seems to mean arrive at 
perhaps with an added sense of acquire by effort. 
The sense is doubtless the same in the less concrete 
and equally colloquial make it ("I tried my best, but 
I couldn't make it ") . Something of both arrival and 
acquisition may be seen in the phrases common in 
college circles make Phi Beta Kappa, make the foot- 
ball team. Make is now in as good uge as pay (in 
the United States at least) in the phrases make a 
visit and make a call. Make good, meaning to 
succeed ("Do you think he can make good?"), is 

Manly and Mannish. 
See Childlike. 


It has been said that no one can marry except one 
who is empowered to perform the ceremony; other 
mortals are married. The facts show, however, that 
the active form has been used of both man and 
woman, bride and bridegroom, for some five hundred 


Mathematics almost always takes a singular verb, 
as do the names of the other sciences, mechanics, 
physics, etc. An exception is the higher mathernatics, 
which is coustruecj ^s a plural, 



See Can. Might is the form for the past tense, 
indicative and subjunctive, of may. 


The possessive case of the pronoun (my, his)^ not 
the objective (mey him), is demanded in such sen- 
tences as ''I hope you don't mind my doing it." 
The object of the verb is not the pronoun, but the 
clause my doing it. See also /. 


Mean, as an adjective, is correctly used in the 
sense of ignoble, contemptible, and so may be defended 
in the common expression, '*I never felt so mean in 
my life.'' It is indefensible in the sense of in poor 
health (^'Feeling awful mean''). In the sense of 
disobliging, offensive in small ways, it is colloquial. 
It is in good use in a variety of senses — stingy, penu- 
rious, small-minded, of low estate or rank, etc. 


Means may take either a plural or a singular verb; 
most commonly it takes the singular. Adjective 
and verb used with it must agree; we may say 
either, ''All means have been exhausted," or, ''Every 
means has been exhausted." 


Measles was originally a genuine plural form, but 
it is now almost universally construed as a singular 



This word is plural in form only. It is the name 
of a single science, and takes a singular verb, as do 
mathematics, physics, and the like. 


Merely and simply are often interchangeable. 
Merely primarily means purely, without admixture; 
simply means without complication. In many more 
or less figurative uses either figure will serve. In 
some uses, however, merely means no more than, 
only C^It was merely the caf ). Simply may mean 
no less than, as, ^^It was simply stupendous.'' 


This is an abbreviation of the French form Mes- 
sieurs, used to supply the want of an EngUsh plural 
of Mr, It should no more be used in the salutation 
of a letter to mean Dear Sirs than Mr. should be 
used to mean Dear Sir. Messrs. is itself an abbre- 
viation, and should not be abbreviated further. 

In common words; see p. 12. 


A comment on metal and mettle will be found un- 
der Brethren. 

See Center. 



Middling as adjective and noun is in good use in 
various senses, but is condemned as colloquial, even 
as vulgar as an adverb meaning fairly y tolerably. 

See In our midst. 


Mighty was formerly in good use as an adjective 
meaning very great (^'a mighty noise ")> and as an 
adverb meaning greatly, very ('^I know mighty well'O- 
It is now colloquial or familiar in both uses. 


Mind is incorrectly used for remember in such ways 
as, "Do you mind how he ran when he saw us?^' 
It is correctly used to mean something like hear in 
mind in such expressions as V£ver mind and mind the 
step. It is correctly used to mean give heed tOy thence, 
doubtless through such expressions as "Mind what 
I tell you,^' it comes (especially in America) to 
mean obey. 


The use of minus to mean deprived of or without, 
as, "He came back minus his hat," is colloquial. 


See Moment. 


The passive form of the verb, as, "If I am not mis- 
taken/' for "If I mistake not,'' has been condemned 


as useless and illogical, but it has withstood the at- 
tack, and is now more widely used than the active. 


In ordinary speech moment and minute are inter- 
changeable as meaning a small, indefinite period of 
time. Moment was originally a mediaeval measure 
of time; there were 1,080 moments in an hour. 
Thus moment came to mean a period of time too small 
to be measured, a negligible interval. 

See Financial. • 


A sound objection to this word is the fact that we 
already have in the language a simpler one meaning 
the same thing, rich or wealthy. It is not a sound 
objection to say, ^^If we tolerate moneyed and landed j 
why not fielded farmers and cowed dairymen, or even 
brained scholars and ironed mine-owners?'' Because 
we do not need these words; when we do we shall 
have them. They are properly formed from nouns 
with -ed meaning provided with. See further com- 
ment under Talented, and in Introduction, p. iv. 


As a noun moot originally meant assembly. Next it 
became a technical law term meaning an assembly of 
students at which hypothetical cases were discussed. 
Thus a moot question was a question for discussion 
at a moot or assembly. From this arises its use as an 
adjective meaning for discussion, debatable, doubtful. 



Moot is the correct form in this sense; mooted j if it 
meant anything in such an expression, would mean 
argued or, possibly, brought forward for discussion. 


A careful speaker will use more in speaking of two 
objects or persons, rnost of more than two, as, ^^This 
is the more expensive of the two/' ^^He is the most 
considerate man I know." 

See Evenings. 


Most for almost is obsolete except as it is found in 
dialect. Most all for almost all is widely used collo- 
quially, but is out of place in formal speech or writing. 

Most perfecty most complete^ most thorough, and 
similar superlatives are, strictly speaking, illogical, as 
if a thing is perfect it cannot be more so. Most per- 
fecty however, is commonly used colloquially to mean 
most nearly approaching perfection, 


Mr. as a general rule is used as a title when no 
other is used. It is not commonly used with a 
man's full name. It should never be used when 
Esquire follows the name, and is not usual when 
abbreviated titles such as D.Z)., LL.D., and the like 
follow the name. Its use before other titles is 
obsolete except as it has survived in a few special 
phrases such as Mr. Justice Smith, Mr. Chairman, 
Mr. Mayor, etc. 



Mrs, should never be used with the title of a 
woman^s husband, as Mrs. Colonel Smith, Mrs. Doctor 


Mutual means reciprocal. Thus two mutual friends 
would be friends each of whom felt friendship toward 
the other. One who is a friend to each of two others 
is to them a common friend. 


For the use of my with the present participle (my 
going), see Me. 

For My dear Sir, see Dear. 


The use of myself for me is archaic, as, '^ There he 
found John, Peter, and myself.'^ It has never been 
in good use for /, as in the sentence, ''There were 
three there, John, Peter, and myself.' ' 



Name is sometimes incorrectly used for mention, 
as, ''He never named such a proposal to me." It is 
sometimes made to serve for say, as, "I never named 
a thing about it to any one.'' This is very loose, 
careless usage. It is correct, of course, meaning to 
mention a person by name. To name after or for is 
said to be now an Americanism; certainly, it is in 
good use in the United States. 


National use. 
See ^'Guiding Principles," pp. 4-6. 


Near in the sense of stingy or penunoiis\s not con- 
demned by either British or American dictionaries. 


Near-by as an adjective C'A near-by field") is said 
to be chiefly restricted to the United States. It is in 
thoroughly good use. 


Nee does not mean formerly. It is the feminine 
form of the French past participle nSy meaning born. 
It indicates the name of the family into which a 
woman was born, but never the name of a former 


For the use of need and needs in conditional clauses, 
see Dare. Needs in the phrase must needs is an 
adverb meaning of necessity. 


In such expressions as ''Be he never so wise," 
never is the old idiomatic word. But ever, since it 
seemed more logical, came into use also. Now either 
may be used. See So. 

Never is incorrectly used for not ever in such a 
sentence as ''I never remember seeing him," in 
which the meaning is ''I do not remember ever hav- 
ing seen him J 




New is obviously redundant in the phrase a new 

We may say either a new pair of gloves or a pair of 
new gloves, because both the pair and the gloves are 
new. We do not say a salt pail of water when it is 
the water and not the pail that is salt. If we say 
a hot cup of coffee, it is because cup is in the phrase a 
measure of quantity, not a piece of china. 


This is now a singular noun, uniformly taking the 
singular verb; though it was once a genuine plural. 


A comment on this word made a hundred years 
ago by Jane Austen is as sound to-day as when it 
was written: 

^'But now, really, do not you think Udolpho the 
nicest book in the world?^' ^^The nicest; by which I 
suppose you mean the neatest. That must depend upon 
the binding." . . . '^I am sure," cried Catherine, "I did noi 
mean to say anything wrong; but it is a nice book, and 
why should not I call it so?" "Very true," said Henry, 
"and this is a very nice day; and we are taking a very 
nice walk; and you are two very nice young ladies. 
Oh! it is a nice word, indeed! it does for everything. 
Originally, perhaps, it was applied only to express neat- 
ness, propriety, delicacy, or refinement; people were 
nice in dress, in their sentiments, or their choice. But 
now every commendation on every subject is comprised 
in that one word." "While, in fact," cried his sister, 
"it ought only to be applied to you, without any com- 
mendation at all. You are more nice than wise." 


It should be noted that the Oxford Dictionary gives 
as a legitimate meaning of nice, kindy considerate, or 
pleamnty whereas American dictionaries call this use 
of the word colloquial. 


The Oxford Dictionary gives as one meaning of 
nicely, very well, satisfactorily, and quotes as an 
example of its use in this sense a sentence in which 
the word is returned as reply to the question, ''How 
do you do?'' This use of the word is universally 
set down as colloquial in the United States. It is 
interesting to note that the quotation in the Oxford 
Dictionary is from Uncle Tom^s Cabin. 

Nobody else's. 

See Anybody else's. 

Nobody else than. 
See Else. 

No business. 

The phrase no business, as in ''He had no business 
to come," is in good colloquial use. Note its use in 
the quotation from Professors Greenough and 
Kittredge under Have. 

No doubt but that. 
See But. 

No good. 

No good in the sense of worthless, of no account, is 
colloquial. See Good, 


No Other. 

No other and none other are both probably elliptical 
phrases, the first for no other person, the second for 
none other than. They are both in good use. 

No use. 

Of is necessary in such sentences as ''It is of no 
use for me to try.'' The of is not necessary when the 
sentence takes the form, ''There is no use in my 


None may properly be either singular or plural. 
The modern tendency, however, is to use none for the 
plural and no one for the singular. 


Nor is required as a correlative after neither. 
After other negatives such as no or not, nor is used to 
indicate an alternative to the first member, as, "He 
has neither pen nor pencil." Or is used after a 
negative to express an extension or amplification, as, 
"There is no food or drink in the house," "There 
are no books or magazine articles on the subject." 

Not . . . all. 
See All. 

Not in it. 
See In. 

Not only . . . but also. 

In parallel constructions these correlatives should 
be so placed as to limit the words they are intended to 


modify. Thus, '^He not only saw Peter, but Mary 
also," is incorrect because not only limits the verb 
saWj whereas but also limits the noun Mary. Sim- 
ilarly, '*He saw not only Peter, but spoke with him," 
is incorrect because not only modifies Peter j whereas 
and but modifies spoke. The sentences should read, 
*'He saw not only Peter, but Mary also," '^He not 
only saw Peter, but spoke with him." 

Not with so and as. 
See As. 


Noted should be distinguished from notorious. 
Noted means distinguished, celebrated, famous. No- 
torious formerly meant the same, but is now applied 
only to evil fame. 

Nothing like. 

Nothing like for not nearly is very old usage, and 
is to-day no worse than mildly colloquial. 

See Nowhere near. 


See Amateur. 


Nowadays has recently been questioned as a com- 
bination which is not according to the spirit of the 
language. It has been in use, however, since the 
fourteenth century, and is thoroughly well estab- 
Ushed as an idiom. 


Nowhere near. 

Nowhere near in the sense of not nearly has often 
been condemned. It is given as a legitimate phrase, 
however, in the Oxford Dictionary, and in the form 
nowhere nigh seems to have been in good use for 
some five hundred years. See also Nothing like 

Nowheres for nowhere is vulgar. See Everywhere. 



The distinction between and Oh is that is 
used in direct address, as, ''O John," '^0 heart, how 
fares it with thee now?'' It is always used with a 
name or a noun, never standing alone. Oh is an ex- 
clamation expressing any kind of emotion. It may 
stand alone or at the beginning of a sentence or 
longer exclamation. In such a sentence as ^'Oh 
sleep it is a gentle thing," oh is clearly the required 
form, since the sentence is not a direct address to 
sleep, as appears from the use of the pronoun it. 


Obnoxious is properly used in the sense of offensive, 
objectionable, odious. It may be used absolutely — 
that is, without stating to what or to whom the per- 
son or thing is obnoxious. It is erroneously used to 
mean noxious — that is, hurtful or injurious. 


Observe in one of its senses is hardly to be dis- 
tinguished from say. It is defined in this sense as 

176 e\t:ry-day words and their uses 

to say by way of remark, to remark or mention in speech 
or writing. It differs, then, from say in that an 
observation expresses something noticed, observed, or 


For observation in the sense of comment, see 

The difference between observance and observation 
is no more than a modern tendency to restrict ob- 
servance to the meaning the keeping of a ritual or 
ceremony. As meaning the action of paying attention 
the two are interchangeable. 


Occupancy means the condition of being an occupant. 
It also means the act of taking, which is the ordinary 
meaning of occupation. In this sense, then, the two 
are interchangeable. 


Odds was originally felt as a singular noun and is 
so still, as is shown by phrases like ^^ What's the 
odds?'' Where it means chances, however, it some- 
times takes a plural verb, as, ''The odds are a hun- 
dred to one against you." 


Of was formerly used with a number of prepositions 
in such expressions as ''down of (from) his horse," 
"up of (out of) the sea." It is now obsolete in this 
use except in the two phrases forth of and 02it of. 
It appears in colloquial speech and dialect in off of. 


Note that out of is incorrectly used for of to denote 
material, as, ^'The clapboards are made out of 

As a sign of the possessive of may be the equivalent 
of '5, or be used with the 's in a somewhat different 
meaning. A story of Mark Twain would mean a 
story related about Mark Twain. A story of Mark 
Twain's would mean one of Mark Twain's stories, 
that is, written or told by Mark Twain. 

For of the name of and similar phrases, see By. 

Of any is, strictly speaking, illogical, unless it is 
qualified in some way. ^^This book is the best of 
any/' would, if taken literally, mean that the book 
was better than itself. ^^This book is the best of any 
I have seen up to this time,'' expresses the meaning 
more exactly. 

Of is used with a variety of verbs to express 
various relationships with nouns. With verbs of ask- 
ing it expresses something like origin or agency, as 
with askf beseech, demand, desire, entreat, and others. 
Analogous to these is its use with taste and smell, by, 
some condemned as vulgar. With these verbs it 
seems to have a certain partitive sense, perhaps be- 
cause both words appear as nouns with of in such 
phrases as a taste of vanilla, a smell of paint. It is 
correctly used with such verbs as reck, repent, rue, 
beware, in a relationship hardly to be distin- 
guished from that of the direct object. See Approve, 
Accept, Allow, for verbs which take both construc- 
tions in different meanings; to these might be added 
approve, conceive, recollect. Remember and forget are 
not correctly used with of. 


Either of or to may be used in expressions of time 
like *^ quarter of one." 

The use of of in four years of age is a survival of an 
old usage of the preposition to define the reference of 
a statement of measure. In this sense it is correct 
to say a child of four years or a child four years of age, 
but not a child of four years old. 

The expression of all others is now considered 
illogical in that other seems to exclude the object 
from the class in which all seems to place it. It is 
possible that of in this phrase at least may have had 
some such meaning as selected from. The phrase is 
a very old one, but is not now in good use. Of in the 
sense of on, as, '^I sent him of an errand,'' is marked 
'^ obsolete, colloquial, or vulgar.'' 

For of in such phrases as all of them, see AIL 

See also Want. 


Offhand is preferable to offhanded. See Second 
hand and Underhand. 

Off of. 
See Of. 


For of four years old, see Of. 


For on and in in such expressions as '^ I went on the 
train," see In. 

For the combination on to the best usage demands 
the two words, though the one word, onto analogous 


to into and untOy cannot be condemned as incorrect 
in most cases. It is incorrect in any case in which 
on is a part of the verb, and to a separate preposition 
governing a following noun — in other words, when 
on has one construction in the sentence, and to 
another entirely different one, as in the sentence, ''I 
rode on to the next village." Here onto would be 
manifestly incorrect. 
For on time, see In time. 


When one is used as an indefinite pronoun gram- 
mar demands that a following pronoun referring to 
it shall be in the third person singular, as, ''One does 
not speak of himself." More recent usage calls for 
the use of one in the second position also, as, ''One 
does not go unless one is invited, does one?" This 
is sometimes so awkward that conscientious speakers 
who feel that they must observe the rule end by 
avoiding the construction, often by using the generic 
you ("You can't go unless you are invited"). The 
masculine pronoun he or him would be logical to refer 
to one, since it is the generic pronoun for all mankind, 
including womankind. 

In a sentence in which one of those is followed by a 
relative clause ("He is one of those who come early") 
the verb of the relative clause is logically plural to 
agree with its subject who, which is in turn plural to 
agree with its antecedent those. When we say, "He 
is one of those who comes early," we mean, "He is 
one who comes early, — he is one of that kind." 
The construction is really one who comes, and the of 


those makes the sentence ungrammatical, and is re- 
dundant except as it interpolates the idea of kind. 
The sentence may be used to express either one of 
two ideas: 1. He always comes early; 2. He is one 
of a certain class, i, 6., those who come early. It is 
when we wish to express the first idea that we use, 
loosely and ungrammatically, the singular verb. It 
often passes unnoticed in speech, the difference being 
that of a single s, and is possibly becoming idiomatic. 
A careful speaker, however, will always distinguish be- 
tween the two ideas, and express each with precision. 

For 07ie another and each other ^ see Each other. 

In such sentences as ^^I asked ten men, and not a 
one of them knew,'^ the a is clearly redundant. If it 
means any tiling, it emphasizes the unitj^ of one (^^not 
a single one")- 

One and ones are correctly used in an absolute con- 
struction to avoid the repetition of a noun, as, ''You 
may need an umbrella; be sure to carry one.'' It 
is challenged as redundant in such sentences as ''I 
counted seven horses, four bay (ones) and three 
black (ones).'' It is not censured in such expressions 
as ''Which ones do you want?" "The blue ones." 
Here, in the answer at least, ones is more necessary 
than in the foregoing sentence. 

In sentences in which one or two is the subject, the 
verb may agree with the nearest noun, as, "One or 
two of the delegates were coming down the aisle." 


Only should immediately precede the word or 
phrase which it limits unless there can be no am- 


biguity in its immediately following such word or 
phrase. Thus, ^*Only I saw him yesterday," means 
that no one else saw him. ^'I only saw him yester- 
day, '^ means that I did nothing but see him. *'l 
saw only him yesterday," means I saw no one else. 
''I saw him only yesterday," means that it was no 
longer ago than yesterday. "This car for ladies 
only," means that no others may use it. 

See Contrary. 


For or after negatives, see Nor. 


Oral means communicated in spoken words. In 
ordinary loose speech verbal means the same thing, 
though more strictly it means having to do with 
words or communicated by words either spoken or 
written. In common parlance oral and verbal mean 
the same thing. 


This word came into general use as an American- 
ism. It is what is called a back-formation from ora- 
tion and was at first a provincialism. Its use is now 
chiefly humorous or sarcastic. 


Other is required in such sentences as "I like it 
better than any other book I have seen." If other 
is omitted the sentence is clearly illogical, since the 
book in question is one that the speaker has seen. 


Other alteniative is not necessarily an illogical ex- 
pression, since alternative may mean a choice. See 

See also All and Any. 


It has been said recently that ought is properly 
used to express moral obligation and should to ex- 
press propriety. No such distinction has ever been 
felt by ordinary users of the words. For as long as 
their history is recorded both words have been used 
to express obUgation or duty of any sort. 

It should be noted that ought is an auxiliary ex- 
pressing obUgation added to the auxiliaries that ex- 
press tense. Thus, '^ You ought not to have done it," 
is the proper form, in which the auxiliary have ex- 
pressing tense is added to the verb do and not to the 
auxiliary ought. 

Our going. 
See Me. 


See Herself and Myself. 

Out loud. 
Out loud for aloud is a colloquialism. 

Out of. 
See Of. 


In the phrase outside the barn, outside is a prepo- 
sition. In the outside of the barn, outside is a noun 


limited by the possessive of the ham. Of is incor- 
rect after the preposition outside. Outside of, mean- 
ing except, is a colloquial Americanism. 


Over is correctly used to mean more than in such 
expressions as ''Over a pound/' ''Over a mile/' "Over 
a dollar.'' 

For over his signature, see Signature. For over all, 
see All over. 


Overly is an adverb meaning over much; it has 
long been obsolete in England, but is found in Scot- 
land and in the United States. American dictionaries 
call it dialect. 

Own up. 

Own up in the sense of make full admission, confess, 
is colloquial. 


Pains meaning trouble taken in accomplishing some- 
thing, commonly in the phrase "To take pains/' is 
seldom used in any construction that demands a de- 
cision as to whether it is singular or plural. In 
modern usage it most often takes the plural verb or 
pronoun, as in Scott's lines, "Yet much he praised 
the pains he took, and well those pains did pay." 
It has, however, often been construed as a singular 
noun, probably as a collective equivalent to effort. 



We may correctly say either '^a new pair of gloves" 
or ''a pair of new gloves." See New. 

See p. 8. 


The term paradox is applied both to statements 
which are actually self-contradictory and to those 
which merely appear to be so but are actually true. 
In the expression ^'a seeming paradox," which is 
sometimes condemned as illogical, paradox means a 
self-contradictory statement. 


Paraphernalia is allowable, though it has some- 
times been challenged, in the sense of equipmenty ap- 
pointments, or appurtenances y of any kind specified or 


Part and portion may be used interchangeably. 
Both have in them an original idea of division, and 
though portion seems to carry more the idea of allot- 
ment, it is not necessary to restrict it to that sense. 


The first meaning of partially is with partiality. 
It is correctly used, however, in its secondary mean- 
ing, which is incompletely y restrictedly, partly. 


Party is improperly used to mean merely person. 
It is rightly used of a single person considered in some 


relation as ''a party to an agreement.'' In the sense 
of person it is said by European observers to be in 
universal use in the United States. It is, however, 
condemned by American dictionaries no less than by 
the British as vulgar, humorous, or slangy in this 


Past is correctly used to mean just passed or lasty 
as, ''in the past few weeks.'' In this sense it is often 
used with lastj as, ''twenty years last past." 

Patronize. I 

Patronize in the sense of support with one^s expendi- 
ture or custonij frequent^ favor with one^s presence, is 
said to be commercial or colloquial usage. It is 
always more or less pompous when a speaker uses 
it of himself. 


Pell-mell originally referred to the disorderly y con- 
fused action of a crowd. It is now widely used, how- 
ever, to mean in disorder and hurry , headlongj reck- 
lessly, as often as not referring to the action of a 
single person. 


Penny for cent is colloquial. 


People is correctly used in referring to any par- 
ticular group to which the speaker belongs, as com- 
munity , churchy schooly and more specially family. 


It applies in general to any collection of persons 
except one that is thought of as distinctively small. 
Thus one might say, ''The hall was full of people," 
but if the contrary were the case would say, ''There 
were only a few persons in the hall." We use per- 
sons when we think of individuals; people when we 
think of the group collectively. 


Per has been used in so many Latin phrases cur- 
rent in English that it has now practically reached 
the status of an English preposition. Many phrases 
are current in which it is joined with English words, 
as per bearer, per invoice, per day, per pound, and the 
like. A careful speaker, however, will still restrict 
the use of per to the Latin phrase, that is, he will 
say either per annum or by the year, and not mix the 
two languages. All such phrases have English equiv- 
alents; as, by the bearer, by (or according to the) in- 
voice, a day, a pound. 

Per cent. 

Per cent, may take either a singular or a plural verb, 
according as the speaker thinks of it as a unit or as 
a number of units; thus we may say, "Forty per cent, 
of the voters were Republicans," and, "Twenty per 
cent, is too much." , 


Logically, perfect can have neither comparative nor 
superlative. Loosely, however, we use the terms 
more perfect and most perfect to mean more or most 


nearly approaching perfection. See also Chiefest, 
Unique, Most, Full. 

See Allow. 


Perspicacity means clearness of understanding j pene- 
tration, discernment. Perspicuity means lucidity, 
freedom from obscurity, clearness of statement, and is 
improperly used to mean perspicacity. 


Persuade is hardly to be distinguished from con- 
vince. It means to lead a person to accept a statement 
or opinion, whereas to convince means to force him to a 
belief by argument. The main difference is that per- 
suasion may lead to action, but not necessarily to 
belief; conviction may not involve action. You 
may convince a man that he should act, but be un- 
able to persuade him to act on the conviction. You 
may persuade him to act against his convictions. 


See Appertain. 


Philosophically speaking, a pessimist is one who 
beUeves that this world is the worst possible and that 
naturally everything tends toward evil. Colloqui- 
ally the pessimist is not one who beUeves that the 
stars run blindly in their courses, but any one who 
thinks, whether the opinion be well founded or not, 


that it will rain on the day of the picnic. We seem 
to have discarded the older slang term calamity^ 
howler in favor of one that is no less slangy because it 
is found in the pages of Schopenhauer. For pcssi- 
mistic as it is commonly used gloomy or unfavorable 
would be quite strong enough. 


Phenomenon is a singular noun. Its plural is 
phenomena. It is properly used to mean an extraor- 
dinary or highly exceptional occurrence. Through the 
phrasing of the circus or theatrical poster and other 
advertising matter, it acquired the colloquial mean- 
ing a prodigy, especially as applied to some person or 

See p. 8. ^ 


As a colloquial abbreviation of photograph this 
word has been current for nearly fifty years, but it is 
not yet in good use. 


This word, like ethics, politics, mathematics, and the 
like, was originally a collective plural, meaning 
natural things. It is now, however, universally con- 
strued as a singular. 

See p. 9. 

This word is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as 
to talk or act in a trifling, feeble, or ineffective way. 


It seems to have been in use in this sense since the 
middle of the last century. In 1890 the Saturday 
Review quoted it as a university phrase. 

See ^closed please find. 


Plenty has been condemned as an adjective on two 
counts: first, that it is a noun and not an adjective, 
and that for the adjective we should use plentiful; 
second, that when used as an adjective it should 
apply to quantity and not to number. As a noun 
plenty may refer to either quantity or number. As 
an adjective it was once in good use, but is now set 
down as chiefly colloquial either as a predicate ad- 
jective, as '^ Money is plenty,'' or in the phrase 
'^Plenty of." It is also colloquial in its quasi- 
adverbial use, as, plenty large enough. 


See Majority. 

See A.M. 

Point of view. 

Point of view is still preferred by careful speakers 
to viewpoint. Viewpoint, however, has made much 
headway in spite of the severe attacks upon it. It 
is likely to establish itself and may safely be ac- 
cepted. See also Standpoint, 



Politics was originally a plural noun and is now 
construed as either singular or plural. The modern 
tendency is perhaps to make it singular, as, ''Politics 
is his only interest." 


Poorly is the opposite of nicely as answer to the 
question, ^'How do you do?" Both are condenmed 
by American authorities. See Nicely. 

See Part. 


See Mail. 


See Informed. 


Practicable differs from practical when it applies to 
principles as meaning capable of being put into prac- 
ticCy feasible. Practical often applies to persons 
whose knowledge is derived from practice rather 
than from theory. The two come very close to- 
gether in meaning as applied to things, when prac- 
ticable means capable of being actually used, and 
practical means capable of being turned to account, 
practically useful. 


See pp. 10-12, 



As a verb predicate should not be confused with 
predict. It means to assert, affirm^ or technically in 
logic to make a term the predicate in a proposition. 
Predict means to foretell. For grammatical uses of 
predicate, see Glossary, Part III. 


Prejudice means primarily to affect injuriously or 
unfavorably. Hence prejudice usually means in- 
fluenced against, whereas prepossess most commonly 
means influenced in favor of. The phrase prejudiced 
in his favor is widely current. Doubtless it gained 
popularity from its paradoxical form, and though it 
has been attacked it is to some extent justified by 
the fact that prejudiced is defined as prepossessed. 


The use of present for introduce was originally a bit 
of social pretension. Present means to bring into the 
presence of or introduce formally or ceremoniously, as 
to bring a subject before a sovereign. Introduce is the 
better word for the ordinary bringing together of 
friends or acquaintances. 

Present use. 
See '^ Guiding Principles/' p. 4. 


Presumptive originally meant the same as pTe-- 
sumptuous but is now obsolete in that sense. It now 
means either giving reasonable grounds for belief, or 


based on presumption or inference. Presumptuous 
means unduly confident, preswning, impertinent. 


Pretty as an adverb is correctly used to mean 
considerably J fairly ^ rather. In these senses, how- 
ever, it always has a slightly colloquial or familiar 


Either prevention or preventive may be used to mean 
a means of preventing. Preventative, though often 
condemned as a useless modern formation, has been 
in good use as an adjective since the middle of the 
seventeenth century and as a noun since the middle 
of the eighteenth century. Preventive is now gener- 
ally preferred. 


Both previous and previously may correctly be used 
adverbially. Previous is also an adjective. 

Principal and Principle. 

Principle is never an adjective; it is a noun mean- 
ing a fundamental truth or a rule of conduct. Prin- 
cipal is usually an adjective meaning chief, often a 
noun meaning chief person or a sum of money at 


Probe for investigation is a recent formation due to 
the exigencies of writing newspaper head-lines of 


column width. It has proved so useful in the vo- 
cabulary of the city editor and the copy-reader that 
it bids fair to establish itself in the language. The 
New York Evening Post says to its reporters, ^' Probe 
for investigation may be used, but should not be over- 


Propose and intend often come so close together in 
meaning that they cannot be distinguished. When 
propose means to propose to oneself, bring forward 
in one^s mind something that one is going to do, it 
means nothing more nor less than intend. In this 
sense it is defensible in such a sentence as ^'I don't 
propose to be insulted any longer." 


Proposition is properly used to mean a formal 
statement of truth to be demonstrated or more loosely 
a basis for discussion. When it is applied to any- 
thing and everything from a piece of chewing-gum 
to a war between two sovereign nations it is nothing 
but slang. 


This form is the Scotch past participle which sur- 
vives in certain law phrases. Proved is the right 
word for ordinary use. 


Either provided or providing may be correctly used 
in such sentences as *'I will go, providing it does not 


rain.'' This is a regular grammatical use of the 
present participle. 



Quantity is incorrectly used for number in such 
sentences as '^ There was a great quantity of people 

Quarter of (to) one. 
See Of or To. 


Query as a transitive verb meaning to put as a ques- 
tion is marked obsolete. It appears, however, as a 
more or less technical newspaper word meaning to 
make inquiry of an editor as to the possibility of his 
using certain material , as/ 'I queried the Kansas City 
Star about a story." 


The ordinary modem sense of quit is to go away or 
depart from a place or person, to part or separate from 
a thing. It may also mean renouncCj or let go. In 
the eighteenth century and earUer it was used to 
mean stop, discontinue, and it survives in colloquial 
and dialect use in this sense in the United States. 
It has recently been asked ^'why this generally recog- 
nized usage should fall under the ban." The answer 
is that it is generally recognized as vulgar. 


Quite in its weaker sense means actually, really, 
positively. This is its meaning in the large number 


of phrases in which it precedes the indefinite article, 
as quite a large party. In many of these phrases the 
meaning is so weakened that colloquially it means 
but little more than rather and so works around to 
something nearly the opposite of its original mean- 
ing, which was completely , entirely. 



Rabbit not rarebit is now the accepted form in the 
phrase welsh rabbit. The term is probably of slang 
formation Uke Caye Cod turkey for codfish or Munster 
"plums for potatoeSy and doubtless has nothing to do 
with the supposed rarity of the concoction. 


Raise should be distinguished from another word 
similar in sound but in one sense nearly the opposite 
in meaning, raze, which as applied to a building or 
town means to sweep away^ efface completely. Raise 
is correctly used to mean to produce a supply of, as of 
soldiers or sailors, or to breed and bring up, as appUed 
to animals. As applied to persons meaning to rear, 
bring up, it is now little used outside of the United 
States. It is in good general use as appUed to 
plants, vegetables, and trees. 

Raise is not in good use as meaning an increase in 
salary (''Did you get your raise last week?")- The 
Oxford Dictionary does not condemn it in the sense of 
an increase in amount, and gives two examples of its 
use since 1890, both relating to gambling, one Amer- 
ican aud one English. Rise is correct in this sense, 


but is rarely heard. Increase is the best available 
word. For rise and raise as verbs, see Rise. 

See Ring. 

Rarely ever. 

Rarely ever is an old phrase probably elliptical for 
rarely if ever. Rarely or ever arises by confusion of 
the two phrases rarely if ever and rarely or never. 
The last two phrases are the correct ones; rarely ever, 
though it may be idiomatic, having fallen into disuse. 
Seldom is preferred to rarely in such sentences as ^'I 
rarely go there/' on the ground that rarely means 
unusually, uncommonly. 


For had rather, see Have. 


The use of real meaning very or extremely, as, 
''It looks real nice,'' ''I was real put out," is said to 
belong to Scottish and American dialect. 


A substantive clause following reason or reason why 
should be introduced by that, as, ''The reason why I 
went was that I was urgently called." 


See Recollect. 


Receipt and recipe are both correctly used to mean 
a statement of the ingredients and method of preparing 
some compound especially in cookery. 


Reck of. 
See Of. 


/ reckon as the equivalent of the colloquial I guess 
is a survival in the Southern States of America of 
seventeenth-century literary usage. The expression 
still sui^ives also in some dialects in England. 


^^ Recollect when distinguished from remember im- 
plies a conscious or express effort of memory to recall 
something which does not spontaneously rise to the 
mind^^ {Oxford Dictionary). Both recollect and re- 
member are given as definitions of recall. 


Both recompense and compensate are correctly used 
to mean give compensation to a person for loss or in- 
jury, or to make up for, take the place of. 


Recuperate in the sense of recover from exhaustion, 
ill health, pecuniary loss, etc., was severely condemned 
as an unnecessary new formation some fifty years 
ago. It is now, however, the chief meaning of the 


Reduce is properly used of diminution in either 
number or quantity. It may be used interchange- 
ably with lessen. 



To refute a person is to confute him, prove him in 
error. To refute a statement^ opinion, accusation, im- 
putation, or charge, is not merely to call it in question, 
or deny it without proof, but to disprove it, overthrow 
it by argument, show it to be false. 

As omitted after, see As. 


Both relation and relative are correctly used to 
mean kinsman or kinswoman, and in the plural kins- 
folkj kindred. They are in equally good use. 


Relative is sometimes used incorrectly as an ad- 
verb, as, ^^Mr. Smith said, relative to the main ques- 
tion, that," etc. Relatively would be correct here 
meaning with reference to; better would be ^^Mr. 
Smith spoke on the main question, saying,'^ etc. 
Relative is, of course, correctly used as an adjective 
in, ''What Mr. Smith said was relative to the main 


On this word the Oxford Dictionary says: 

In current use only from about 1850, and at first 
perhaps more frequent in American works, but from 1855 
freely employed by British writers, though often pro- 
tested against as an innovation or an Americanism. The 
formation has been objected to (as by Worcester in 1860) 
on the ground of irregularity, but has analogies in available, 


dependable f dispensable^ laughable (Webster, 1864). The 
question has been fully discussed by F. Hall in his work 
On English Adjectives in •<ibley with special reference to 
Reliable (1877). 

Any one who wishes to avoid reliable will find trust- 
worthy an acceptable substitute. 

See Balance. 


Remains is sometimes construed as a singular noun, 
but it is customarily plural, taking a plural verb. 
The assertion that ^Hhere is no such singular noun 
as remain^' is an error; the form occurs not infre- 
quently before the middle of the nineteenth cen- 
tury. Since that time the plural noun has been pre- 

See Recollect and Of. 


The facts do not bear out the assertion that ^^ remit 
should not be used in place of send; remit means to 
send backy 

Remit does not mean send hack except in the 
phrases now rare, remit to prison^ remit to custody. 
It does not mean send in ordinary senses, but has the 
special meaning to send money or valuables, used 
either with direct and indirect objects, as, ^' Remit 
me a hundred dollars," or absolutely, as, "He was 
compelled to remit,'' '' Please remit." 



In many of their meanings, dictionaries make no 
distinction between remote and distant It has been 
suggested, however, that we feel a difference in 
practice, as is shown by the difference in usage 
between the phrases distant relatives and remote an- 
cestors. Is not the difference one of accessibiUty? 
A distant relative may be where one can get at him, 
but remote ancestors are beyond one's reach. 


Rendition means rendering j either in the sense of a 
translation, or the performing of a piece of music or 
acting a play or part, and is said by British diction- 
aries to be American usage. It is recognized in both 
senses by American dictionaries. 

Repent of. 
See Of. 


Replace is challenged in such sentences as ^'Captain 
Smith was ordered to the camp to replace Captain 
Jones,'' on the ground that it ought to mean put 
Captain Jones hack in his place. If the objection 
seems valid, use succeed. 

Reputable use. 
See '^Guiding Principles,'' pp. 4-10. 


In cases where reside means merely live, live is 
preferable according to the principle of simplicity 


(see p. 14). Reside is correctly used of rulers and 
officials '4n residence/' 


Residence means dwelling-place, but it is usually 
applied to the abode of a person of distinction. 
Where house conveys the right idea it is preferable 
according to the rule of simplicity (see p. 14). 
Residence meaning house is usually applied to a house 
of a superior kind, a mansion. See also Home. 


Respectively usually means each to each, or in the 
order named, as, '^ Smith, Brown, and Jones received 
five, ten, and fifteen dollars, respectively.'' It should 
not be confused with respectfully or respectably. 


This is a back-formation from resurrection, now 
accepted in the sense of restore to life from death or 
from the grave, or figuratively to revive as of a prin- 
ciple or legislative measure. In the sense of disinter 
it is highly questionable. 

See Avenge. 


Rev. should not be used without the article as a 
title, unless it be in the address of a letter. See Hon. 

As a common adjective, reverend means worthy of 
deep respect. It should be distinguished from rever- 
ent, which means having, feeling, or showing reverence. 


See Contrary. 


Riches was originally a variant of the abstract noun 
richesse. It has the form of a plural and is com- 
monly construed with plural verbs and pronouns. 


See Drive. 


As a noun right should not be confused with ohliga^ 
tion. In the sentence ^' Women have as good a 
right to have to stand as men/' as good a right should 
be the same obligation. The adjective right is cor- 
rectly used to mean proper or appropriate , as in the 
phrase the right man in the right place. Such phrases 
as right off, right away are American survivals of an 
old use of adverbial right. They are in good collo- 
quial use. The use of right to mean exactly in all 
adverbial phrases such as right noWj right there, right 
at the threshold, and the Uke are called dialect or 
archaic by British dictionaries and chiefly colloquial 
by American dictionaries. 


Of this verb the proper form for the past tense is 
either rang or rung; the past participle should always 
be rung. 


Rise and arise are interchangeable in meaning, 
'J'j^fire eeeiUvS to be a tendency to use arise wheji th^ 


sense of the verb is figurative, as, for example, when 
it apphes to complications , trouhleSy situations, and 
the Uke. The difference between rise and raise is 
that raise is a causative verb meaning to cause to 
rise. The principal parts of rise are present, rise; 
past, rose; past participle, risen. Of raise they are 
raise, raised, raised. 
For rise and raise as nouns, see Raise. 

Rue of. 

See Of. 


Run in the sense of operate is recognized as appUed 
to ships and to mechanical contrivances such as 
engines and mills. As applied to a business, meaning 
conduct or carry on, it is called an Americanism. 


Sabbath is strictly the seventh day of the week. 
Sunday is the first. As a rule Sunday is spoken of 
as the Sabbath only as an indication of some special 
creed or beUef on the part of the speaker. 


The use of same to mean it, as in '^ We have your 
order for one barrel of flour and have shipped same 
by freight/' is a piece of business slang probably 
taken over from technical legal phrases. It is always 
better even in business letters. 



Sample as noun and verb is now chiefly confined 
to commercial uses. As a verb it is correctly used to 
mean to judge of ilie quality of a thing by specimen. 
In senses other than commercial, meaning merely to 
partake o/, as, ^^ Won't you sample the ice-cream?' ' 
it is commercial slang. 


Sanatorium and sanitarium are given as variant 
foims for the same word. American dictionaries 
note a growing tendency to distinguish between the 
two by using sanatorium to mean a place where healing 
is carried on by active measures and sanitarium to 
designate a place where climate or other conditions are 
supposed to be favorable to healing. Sanatarium is not 
recognized as a legitimate form of the word. 


Sanatory means primarily conducive to healing^ 
curative. It is misused to mean pertaining to health, 
which is one of the common meanings of sanitary. 
Sanitary as appUed to objects which are contrived 
with a view to sanitary requirements means some- 
thing very much like sanatory. Most commonly, 
however, sanitary means pertaining to the conditions 
affecting health. It will be seen that sanatory applies 
only to conditions which are good, whereas sanitary 
conditions, those which pertain to health, may be 
good, bad, or indifferent. 


See Sing. 


See Sink. 


As preposition and conjunction meaning except, 
but for J save and saving may be used interchangeably. 
Neither has very much colloquial use to-day. 


Saw is the past tense of the verb to see, and seen 
the past participle. It follows that seen is incor- 
rectly used when it is used without an auxiUary such 
as have, has, had, was, is. 


It says in the book meaning the book or the author 
thereof says is colloquial. Says I, says he, says you, 
and the like for I said, etc., belong only in \ailgar 
speech or humorous imitations of it. / say is col- 
loquial in England; the corresponding say of Amer- 
ican speech is called colloquial by the dictionaries, 
but seems to many who hear it daily more justly 
described as a bad habit. A German observer of 
American speech calls it current American usage. 
Say is to be avoided in the sense of voice, injlvence, 
vote, as, ''He has no say in this business." 


See Hardly and CanH hardly. 


Scholar means either a child attending an elementary 
school or a very learned or erudite person. Pupil or- 


dinarily means a boy or girl attending school. The 
term student commonly signifies one who attends a 


School may properly be applied to almost any in- 
stitution where instruction is given. In the United 
States it commonly means either an institution below 
the grade of a college or one of the graduate departments 
of a university. Those connected with the college 
itself do not commonly speak of it as a school. 
Neither is the phrase going to school usually applied 
to one who attends a graduate school of law or med- 

School is correctly used to mean a shoal or large 
number of fish. 

Second hand. 

Second hand is properly used as an adjective. 
Second-handed, an old formation of an adjective from 
the noun second hand, is now obsolete. 


See First. ' '"^ 


Section, meaning a portion of a country, is recog- 
nized by American dictionaries. The Oxford Dic- 
tionary recognizes it, but declares that it is used 
chiefly in America. 


The primary meaning of secure in English is free 
from care or anxiety. The original meaning in Latin 


safe, free from danger, is a secondary but entirely 
legitimate meaning in English. 

See Witness. 


Seem is called redundant in such expressions as 
''I can't seem to find it/' ^^I can't seem to remem- 
ber." As colloquially used, however, these expres- 
sions probably have a slightly different meaning 
from ^'I can't find it" and ^'I can't remember." 
More formally expressed the idea would be ''It 
would seem that I ought to be able to find it, but for 
some reason not easily explained I cannot." Seem^ 
then, applies to a verb {ought) which is not expressed. 
The distincion between seem and appear, that 'Svhat 
seems is in the mind, what appears is external," is 
not borne out by the facts. Examples show that 
the two are used indifferently of both objective and 
subjective matters. 


The phrases seldom if ever and seldom or never mean 
essentially the same thing and are both in good use. 
Seldom ever is said to be obsolete and seldom or ever 
is illogical, a mere confusion of the other two. (See 
Rarely,) The objection to seldom or never is made on 
logical grounds; that if an action occurs seldom it is 
untrue that it never occurs, and vice versa. Doubt- 
less the phrase is elliptical for ''I go seldom or (per- 
haps it would be nearer the fact to say) never"; 


a useful condensation of the chorus and solo : '^ What, 
never?'' ^' Well —hardly ever!'' 


Semi-occasional appears in the Oxford Dictionary 
as an Americanism. It does not appear at all in 
American dictionaries. 


Sensual in its common meaning to-day means ab- 
sorbed in the life of the senses, usually voluptuous, often 
unchaste. Sensuous means pertaining to the senses, 
or, as applied to pleasure, achieved through the senses. 
It has no evil implication. 


Set is the causative of the verb to sit. Its prin- 
cipal parts are present, sit; past, set; past participle, 
set. Those of sit are present, sit; past, sat; past 
participle, sat. Set has a great number of meanings 
of which the commonest are those which are based 
on its causative significance to cause or make to sit, to 
place. As applied to the heavenly bodies it has a 
special meaning to go down. As applied to hens and 
other fowl sit is doubtless the correct word, but set 
has been so widely used colloquially that it is almost 
technical in this sense. 


Settle is correctly used transitively meaning to 
close an account by making final payment, and to pay 
a bill. It is used absolutely or intransitively, usually 


followed by with and the name of a person or a firm, 
meaning to settle accounts by payment. 

Shall and will.^ 

The auxiliaries shally will, should, and would are 
used to express two kinds of future action; first, 
'' simple futurity/' that which '^is going'' to happen 
in the natural course of events; second, '^voUtion/' 
that which is to be made to happen through consent, 
desire, compulsion, or prophecy. 

To express simple futurity in direct discourse the 
auxiUary is conjugated: 

I shall ' 

we shall 

you will 

you will 

he will 

they w ill 

To express volition in direct discourse the forms 

I will we will 

you shall you shall 

he shall they shall 

In a question, use the form expected in the answer. 
If the question is as to what is going to happen 
(simple futurity) use the form which the person who 
replies would use to indicate simple futurity. If you 
expect a promise, or consider that the person who 
answers has any control over the course of the event, 
use the form he would use to express volition. 

The question ''Will I?" C' WiU I scrub the kitchen 
floor now, ma'am?'') is always a conundrum, for 

* This discussion of Shall and will is from the author's Guide to 
Good English, Harper & Brothers, 1914. 


when you ask it you ask some one else about your 
intentions, a matter on which you yourself hold the 
only certain knowledge. It is correctly used only 
as an echo, usually ironical, of another speaker's 
words, as: ''You will now, if you please, do as I told 
you to in the first place." "Will I, indeed!'' 

If the question is not ironical, the auxiliary in 
the answer is likely to be shall. ''You will find 
spherical trigonometry a very difficult study/' 

If the second speaker expected any answer, it 
would be, "You will,'' and he would use will in his 
question. He uses shall because he expects no answer ; 
his question is perfunctory, and means no more than 

A direct command from one who might rightly 
use terms of volition (compulsion) is often put in 
terms of mere futurity as a matter of courtesy. ' ' You 
will proceed at once with your entire conamand to 
the support of General McVickar." 

The forms indicating volition are used in in- 
spired and prophetic language, perhaps because the 
speaker as a prophet is supposed to feel some sort of 
control over future events, or because he is indicating 
some degree of compulsion on the part of some power 
which has such control. "And the desert shall blos- 
som as the rose." "And no one shall work for 
money, and no one shall work for fame." "And 
there shall be no more death." 
Vv^Jn- direct discourse use should where the direct 
^rm has shall, and would where the direct form has 


Direct: I shall go, and Tom will go, and as for 
Ned, he shall go or I will know the 
reason why. Shall you go? 

Indirect: Jack said he should go, and Tom would, 
and that Ned should or he would 
know the reason why, and he asked 
whether I should go. 

See /, You, He, and other pronouns. 


Shine as a transitive verb meaning to polish is said 
to be an Americanism. It is not condemned by 
American dictionaries except in the sense to black 
boots, which is called colloquial. 


Show has long been used, especially in the plural, 
as a generic term for entertaining exhibitions of all 
sorts. Its use specifically to mean a dramatic per- 
formance in a theater is colloquial or humorous. 
The phrase show down has recently been called by 
an English commentator on American diction a 
piece of commercial slang. Every American knows 
that it comes from the game of poker and is slang 
as applied to everything else. 

Show, meaning chance ('^He hasn't a ghost of a 
show'O^ is colloquial. 


Shrink has for its pfist tense shrank find for it^ 
past participle shrunk. 



See Endwise. 


Sight in the sense of a great deal, as a sight of thanks, 
was once good usage, but is now colloquial or slang. 
It probably comes from sight in the sense of a 
feature or object worth seeing. Hence a show or dis- 
play of something and so a great number or quantity. 


The accepted phrase is under his signature, under 
the signature of, and not over. It is doubtless the 
same as the legal phrase given under my hand and 
seal, and probably means something like under the 
warrant or guarantee. 


See Crime. 


See Ago. 

As a conjunction since is said to be legitimately 
used for that, as, ''It is now fourscore years since 
he has plagued all those who have any dependence 
on him.*' This may be allowable, but certainly 
that would be clearer. 

Since does not mean merely because, but rather 
because thai, in view of the fact that, inasmuch as. 
In ''Since I am sleepy, I will go to bed,'' since is in- 


correct, for it is not in view of the fact that the speaker 
is sleepy that he goes to bed, but because he is sleepy. 


The past tense of sing may be either sang or sung, 
the past participle is sung. Of the past tense 
Tennyson uses both forms in one stanza of ^'In 
Memoriam^' , 

Then echo like our voices rang; 
We sung, tho' every eye was dim, 
A merry song we sang with him, 

Last year: impetuously we sang. 

Professor J. F. Genung has noted that in '^In 
Memoriam'' Tennyson uses sang sixty-four times and 
sung thirteen times, as the past tense. 

See Set, 


See '* Guiding Principles," pp. 5-10. 

Slip one over. 
See p. 9. 


Smart in the sense of brisk, vigorous, is correct. 
In the sense of considerable in numbers as right 
smart, a smart chance, it is in provincial and dialect 
use in the United States. Dictionaries call it obso- 


lete and rare as meaning pert or impudenty but it is 
neither obsolete nor rare in this sense among chil- 
dren, or even among their elders in certain parts of 
the United States. It is used chiefly in America 
to mean clever in general, especially adept in looking 
after oneself. It is said to be legitimately used of 
persons to mean clever in talk or argument^ and of 
sayings to mean clever or witty. It is allowable, when 
used of persons, to mean alert, and brisks also to mean 
neatly dressed. It is correctly used of dress to mean 
neat, trim, and stylish. 

Smell of. 
See Of. 


For so and as in negative and positive construc- 
tions, see As. So is legitimately used without cor- 
relative that indicating measure or degree, meaning 
to that extent, as, ''They could not enforce a law so 
severe." From this comes its use in affirmative 
clauses as a weak intensive with no suggestion of 
comparison, meaning hardly so much as very (un- 
less stressed in speech), as, ''He looked so foolish," 
"You are so kind/' "not so bad." 

So long. 

This and see you later hold their ground as collo- 
quial phrases of informal parting and probably will 
do so until we can agree upon some equivalent for 
the useful au revoir, auf wiedersehen, Hasta la visita, 
of European languages. 



Either sociable or social may be used to mean in- 
clined to seek and enjoy the company of others, dis- 
posed to friendly intercourse. 


Society in the sense of the aggregate of persons living 
in a community is commonly construed as a singular 


Some is properly used in the sense of about, ap- 
proximately, as, '^I have known him some twenty 
years.'' As an adverb meaning a little, somewhat, it 
is said to be Scottish, and northern dialect in Eng- 
land. It is said to be allowable with verbs meaning 
a certain amount, a little, as, ^^He hunted some, and 
fished some." In the sense of somewhat, as, '^I 
am some better,'' it is called an Americanism by 
British dictionaries and colloquial by American dic- 
tionaries. Its emphatic use as adverb and adjective 
was colloquial in the middle of the last century, but 
has lately had much vogue as slang. For some good, 
see Good. 


Something was formerly much used adverbially, 
meaning to some extent, somewhat. Nowadays, how- 
ever, it is seldom used in this sense except where it is 



felt to have some force as a noun, as, "We ran the 
whole distance in something less than an hour." 

Sort of is misused exactly as is kind of. See Kind. 

Sounds good. 

For verbs that take the adjective rather than the 
adverb, see Bad. The phrase that sounds good to me, 
as a general expression of approval, is slang. 


Spare is not the exact equivalent of grant or vouch- 
safe. It means in this sense give or yield up and 
strongly suggests reluctance in the parting. Thus, 
one who says, ^'You might have spared some praise 
for him,'' implies that the praise, if it had been 
given, would have been given reluctantly. 


This word has no standing in EngHsh except as a 
dialect form arising as a vulgar corruption from 


The distinction between speak and talk is fanciful; 
meaning for meaning, the two are exactly parallel. 


See Especial. 


In their ordinary meanings specialty and speciality 
cannot be distinguished. 


See Audience. 


Spell in the sense of a space of time of indefinite 
duration, usually short, is colloquial, as it is also in 
the sense of a bad turn, a short period of illness. It is 
said to be allowable, however, in the sense of a time 
devoted to rest or relaxation. 


Splendid as a term of general approbation is collo- 
quial. See Nice and Awful. 

Split infinitive. 
See To. 

See Cupful. 


The past tense of spring is either sprang or sprung. 
The past participle is sprung. 


One of the accepted meanings of stand as a transi- 
tive verb is to put up with, tolerate, endure. Stand for 
legitimately means a number of things, among others 
to stand sponsor for. It would seem then that for 
is redundant with stand to mean endure unless one 
wishes to turn the legitimate phrase into slang. 


Standpoint is legitimately used to mean a mental 
point of view. It has been censured, as has viewpoint, 
but must be admitted as good usage. 



Start means begin as applied to a process or course 
of action. This is a secondary meaning from the 
primary one, which is to leap or spring and so spring 
to life. Thus one may start anything which may be 
thought of as continuing in motion. We may start 
a journey, a train of thought, or an engine, but not a 
book, if one refers to the reading of it. To start a 
magazine ought to mean to found a magazine, not to 
begin to read a number of a magazine. In the phrase 
he started for the door, start is legitimately used in the 
sense of either spring toward or to begin a journey. 


State is often misused for say, declare, or assert. 
State means properly to set forth fully and in definite 
form. It applies properly only to formal matters set 
forth in detail. It is misused in such sentences as 
"He stated that he felt much better/' unless the 
assertion is made upon oath. 


Stationary is ordinarily an adjective meaning hav- 
ing a fixed station or place or remaining unchanged or 
unmoved. Stationery is a noun meaning writing- 
materials or other articles sold by a stationer. 


Stimulant and stimulus are interchangeable in their 
conomon meaning. In ordinary use there is a tend- 
ency to use stimulant as appUed to any medicine or 
agent which temporarily stimulates a physiologic proc- 
ess, whereas we usually us^ stimulus to mean some-- 


thing that excites or rouses the mind or spirits, that 
which incites to action. 


Stop has long been in good use in the sense of 
tarry or remain. Modern usage, however, tends to 
use stay in this sense and stop in the sense of to cease 
from motion f as, ^^The train stopped at Chicago but 
I did not stay there/' 


Stricken is an old past participle of strike now used 
only in a special sense meaning wounded or afflicted. 
Struck may be used in the same sense, and also in all 
senses as the past participle of strike. 

See Asj and Glossary, Part III. 


Subtile and subtle have the same meaning in all 
their current senses. The only uses in which they 
differ are a few that are either technical or obsolete. 


Such is properly used to emphasize an obvious 
quality in such constructions as never had such music 
been heard. It is colloquial, however, when used as 
an absolute intensive followed by the article, as, ''I 
never saw such a beautiful sight.'^ ' More formally 
this would be '^I never saw a sight so beautiful." 
Note that so may be correctly used in such sen- 
tences. See So. 


Such like has recently been condemned as a pleo- 
nasm. It is, however, a very old phrase, and has 
been in reputable use for centuries, both as an ad- 
jective and as a pronoun. 


Suicide as a verb is defined without comment by 
the Oxford Dictionary. Seemingly, it is tacitly ap- 
proved. The Century Dictionary calls it slang. In 
a quotation from an English newspaper in 1898 it is 
called a convenient jpiece of French slang. Other 
examples show it as used only by newspapers except 
where reputable writers use it more or less jocosely. 


Summons in the sense of a call, particularly a com- 
mandy to attend some public duty is now commonly 
used for both the singular and plural forms. Sum- 
monses is a correct form, but is now falling into dis- 
use. Summons as a verb meaning to serve with a sum- 
mons is called colloquial. Summon is correctly used 
in this sense. 


A careful speaker will distinguish between suppose 
and expect. The commonest meaning of suppose is 
to assume as true without examining proofs, presume, 
hold as an opinion, believe. Expect means look for- 
ward to and applies to events which we cannot con- 
trol. See Expect. 


Such phrases as he sure ("Be sure to come'O^ ^^^^ 
enough^ to he sure, though widely used by good 


speakers, are called colloquial by the Century Dic- 
tionary. On the other hand, the adverbial sure, 
meaning certainly , is not censured. It is indeed very 
old usage, as in ^^He is bewitched, sure,'' from a 
seventeenth-century play. In its modern revival, 
however, it seems to stand somewhere between slang 
and colloquialism. 


The past tense of swim is either swam or swum, 
though recent usage tends toward swam. The past 
participle is swum. 



Walter Savage Landor once conamented on this 
word as follows: 

I regret to see that vile and barbarous vocable tal- 
ented stealing out of the newspapers into the leading 
reviews and most respectable publications of the day. 
Why not shillinged, farthinged, tenpenced, etc.? The 
formation of a passive participle from a noun is a license 
that nothing but a very peculiar felicity can excuse. 

This comment indicates a fundamental misconcep- 
tion of the meaning of -ed as a sufiix. It does not 
always indicate the past tense or past participle of a 
weak verb, but may be added to a noun to form an 
adjective meaning provided with. (See Introduc- 
tion, p. iv.) Thus when Shakespeare speaks of the 
soldier as ^^ bearded like a pard" he means that he 
is provided with a beard like that of a leopard. 


Bearded in such a phrase as **he bearded the lion in 
his den'' is the participle of a verb to beard in a 
special sense. Such adjectives as shillingedy far- 
thinged, and tenpenced are quite within the bounds 
of possibility; indeed, we already have moneyed in 
current use. See Moneyed. 


See Speak. 

Taste of. 
See Of. 


Tastily^ meaning tastefully, in good taste, is col- 


Team properly means a number of persons asso- 
ciated in some joint action or two or more draft 
animals togetlier with the vehicle which they draw. 
A horse and a vehicle working together do not make 
a team except in dialect. To apply the word to 
the vehicle without the animal is provincial usage in 
some parts of the United States. 

See Cupful. 

Technical words. 

See '^ Guiding Principles," p. 4. 

See p. 9, 



Tend is obsolete or dialect in most of the senses in 
which it is confused with attend^ as, for example, to 
tend a shop, a business, a baby, or a sick person. 
The only ordinary sense in which it is allowable is 
to care for or cultivate a plant or to operate or care for 
a machine. Tend on in the sense of attend is allow- 
able, as in Tennyson's line, ^' And Enid tended on him 

See Awful. 


Than is a conjunctive particle normally used after 
comparatives of adjectives and adverbs, and after cer- 
tain other words that are similar in use in that they 
are followed by a second member corresponding to the 
second member of a comparison. Than rather than 
but is the regular form after else and other. It is 
sometimes used after different (see Different) , diverse, 
and opposite. Note that it is not a preposition and 
that when it is followed by a pronoun the pronoun 
takes its case from its relation to the previous verb. 
Thus,'* It is none other than I," means ''It is I,none 
other.'* See similar constructions with But. 

The phrase than whom as in Milton's line, '* Satan, 
than whom none higher sat," may be accepted with- 
out further discussion as idiomatic. 


The difference between that and which as relative 
pronouns is much easier to follow in practice than to 


explain. Both may be used of either persons or 
things, although neither is very common in modern 
usage as apphed to persons, wlio being almost uni- 
versally preferred. Which is correct in this use, 
however, as in the sixth chapter of Matthew: ^^Thy 
Father which seeth in secret ' ' and ' ' Our Father, which 
art in heaven.'' That is not uncommon in restrictive 
relative clauses apphed to persons, as, ^' There is the 
man that said it/' It has been said that that cannot 
refer to an idea or a thought, as which does in such 
constructions as ''That seems impossible, which it is." 
The main difference between the two is that a 
relative clause introduced by that has a closer con- 
nection with its antecedent than one introduced by 
ivhich. Some grammarians go so far as to say that 
that is properly used only with restrictive clauses, and 
this is in general the tendency. Which, however, 
may alsobe used for restrictive clauses, and occasional 
examples occur in which that clauses seem to be mod- 
ifiers, as, for example, in these lines of Pope's: 

A needless Alexandrine ends the song. 

That Uke a wounded snake, drags its slow length along. 

or still earlier in these lines from the ''Faery Queen*' : 

Of a straunge man I can you tidings tell. 
That wasteth all his countrie farre and neare. 

Both these examples, particularly the one from Pope, 
would seem to be evidence against another rule, 
namely, that that is never used when there is a pause 
between the clause and its antecedent. Whether 


the punctuation is Pope's or not, at least the hne 
is his, and if in this case he has made a Hne at the end 
of which there is no pause it will be hard to find a 
mate to it in the whole body of his work. 

A sounder rule is that that never introduces a 
clause that is merely descriptive or progressive. 
In such clauses the relative is the equivalent of 
and with a demonstrative or personal pronoun, and 
this, and he. Thus, ^^I went up the hill which I 
found very steep,'' means ''I went up the hill and 
found it very steep." If the sentence were to read 
''I went up a hill that I found very steep," the 
clause would be neither descriptive nor progressive, 
but restrictive, meaning ^Hhat hill and no other." 

Another rule which is practically invariable is that 
that cannot be used in clauses in which the pronoun 
is preceded by a preposition, as, ^^This is the book 
of which you told me." ^^ There is the man to whom 
I spoke." If that is used in a clause with a preposi- 
tion the preposition follows the relative, as, '^This 
is the book that you told me of." ^' There is the 
man that I spoke to." This would seem to indicate 
that relative that never stands in a position that 
would necessitate its receiving stress or emphasis; 
it is always pronounced thH. 

As a demonstrative in such expressions as *^ Apples 
of that kind" the pronoun that is singular because it 
limits kind, not apples. In ^'apples of those kinds," 
those is plural because kinds is plural. Apples of 
those kind is grammatically incorrect. 

As -ft conjunction that is often inadvertently re- 
peated in a sentence with an interpolated clause, as, 


*'I told him that if he was going with me and wanted 
to be on time that he would have to hurry/' One 
conjunction is enough to introduce the clause *'he 
would have to hurry." 

The use of that as demonstrative adverb, as, ''The 
brook was that small I could step across it,'* is now 
obsolete except in dialect. 


Repetition of. See A. 


For misuse of their in such sentences as ''Every- 
body must show their ticket,'' see Anybody. 


Them is incorrectly used for those in such sentences 
as "Hand me them books," but not in "Give food to 
them who are hungry." The difference between 
"Give them food" and "Give them to me" is that 
m the first them is the indirect object and in the 
second the direct object of the verb. Them may 
correctly be used as the direct or indirect object of 
a verb (accusative or dative case) with or without 
the preposition and whether or not it is followed by 
a relative clause. 


Then is allowable as an adjective either with an- 
other adjective or a participle in an adjective phrase, 
as, the then existing law, or limiting a noun, as, the then 
president. The construction is awkward, but not 



For from thence^ see From. 


Therefore is an adverbial connective meaning in 
consequence of that introducing an inference from 
something already stated. Therefor means for that, 
for ity and is rarely used except in very formal 

These kind. 
See That. 


For distinction between think, suppose, and guess, 
see Guess. 


Either third or thirdly may be used to mean in 
the third place in enumerating the heads of a dis- 
course. See First. 


For such phrases as this much, see That. 

Such phrases as this ten days are, of course, gram- 
matically incorrect if this directly limits days. They 
are defensible, however, as meaning this last ten days 
in which last ten days is felt as a unit of time. These 
phrases may have gained currency in the legal and 
formal use of this before a date, as this first day of 


For those followed by who or that, see That (rela-. 
tive), For those sort, see That (demonstrative), 



For as though, see As. 


Thought in the sense of an item of mental activity 
may be used as we commonly use the words idea and 
notion. See Idea. 


For get through, see Get. 

Throw down. 

Throw down may, it is said, be figuratively used to 
mean to degrade, humiliate, deject in spirit, as, ^^ For- 
tune raises up and throws down.'' As used of trivial 
matters meaning to discard, throw off, it is American 


Thus primarily means in this way, and in all its 
secondary meanings retains some such significance. 
It means in the manner now being indicated, in ac- 
cordance with this, and to this extent, number, or 
degree. As a connective between sentences it is 
abused when it is made to serve where there is no 
reference, even remote, to manner. 


It is a mistake to consider till as a contraction of 
until. Till is the older word, and had originally the 
idea of to or toward. Until came into use as a com- 
pound like unto. It is correctly used in the sense of 
until, also in a sense nearly equivalent to before, 


as, ^'He did not go till sunset.'' Until also has this 


See Hon., Rev., Mr., Mrs., Esq., LL.D. 


Of to used absolutely at the end of a clause with 
the infinitive understood, as, ''I won't go if you 
don't want me to," it is said that the construction 
was rare before the nineteenth century, but is now 
frequent as a colloquialism. See Do. 

As a preposition to implies motion toward and not 
position in. It is the verb and not the preposition 
that is misused in such expressions as ^'Bennington 
is a place I never was to." (See Been to.) It is 
redundant in the colloquial phrase *' Where are you 
going to?" 

An infinitive is said to be split when an adverb 
or adverbial phrase is inserted between to and the 
infinitive, as, ''He was too busy to much miss his 
wife," or, to completely and loithout mercy annihilate. 
This construction has long been frowned on, but 
holds its place in spite of condemnation. As a rule 
it is easy to avoid it if one wishes to avoid censure; 
though it is hard to find any equivalent for "Enough 
to more than cover expenses" short of the circumlo- 
cution "Enough to cover expenses and more than 
cover them," or its equivalent. 

Both to and of are correctly used in telling time, 
as, "quarter to one." 


To the manner bom. 

The plirase comes from Hamlet's speech in Act I, 
Scene IV: 

But to my mind, though I am native here 

And to the manner born, it is a custom 

More honored in the breach than in the observance. 

Manner is here used probably as a sort of pun, at 
least in a double sense, intended to suggest both 
manner and manor. As such we may spell it cor- 
rectly either way. It is now most commonly written 


Modern usage calls for the future verb rather than 
the present in such sentences as *' To-morrow will be 

Too bad. 

Too body meaning regrettable, lamentable, reprehen- 
sible, is very old usage. It is at worst mildly col- 

7^00,111^0 very,\B not used with participles in the best 
American usage, as, too overworked, too excited, too 
pleased. See Very. 


In the early stages of the language towards was 
formed from toward by the addition of es of the 
adverbial genitive. It is a mistake to say that 
''Etymology furnishes no pretext for the adding of 
8 to -^ard in such words." No distinction need be 


made in usage between toward and towards. Use 
whichever sounds better in a given sentence. 


To escape from secrecy to noticej now the com- 
monest accepted meaning of transpire, is a figurative 
sense from the earUer one to cause a gas or liquid to 
pass through the pores or walls of a vessel. It is ac- 
ceptable now in its figurative sense, although come 
out is often preferable on the score of simpHcity. 
For the difference between transpire and happen, see 


The phrase try an experiment has been challenged 
on the ground that an experiment is a trial and 
therefore the verb should be make. We have, how- 
ever, as a legitimate meaning of try, to test the effect 
or operation of, to use, apply, or practise tentatively. 
In this sense try is legitimately used in the phrase. 
Even if it were not, the phrase is well enough es- 
tablished to be accepted as an idiom. 

On try and for try to, see And. 

Try as we will should be try as we may. May is 
necessary because the construction always indicates 
some degree of remoteness from fact. 


Of the phrase turn away round it has been said that 
away is redundant, also that it should never be way. 
There is, however, no authority for using away in 
the sense of entirely. It is doubtless a contraction 



in this phrase for all the way and as such one form 
would be just as colloquial as the other. Neither 
could be called correct and probably neither is well 
enough estabhshed to be considered idiomatic. 

Turn down. 

Turji down is said to be American slang in the 
sense of to rebuke, snub, reject, refuse to accept. There 
are indications, however, that it is coming into good 

Two first. 
See First. 



Unbeknown for unknown is an old word now found 
only in colloquial and dialect usage. 


Underhanded is an unnecessary formation from 
underhand. Underhand is an adjective. The added 
-ed gives it no added adjective force. It cannot 
mean provided with since underhand is not a noun; 
it does not signify the past participle, for underhand 
is not a verb. In its rare meaning of inadequately 
supplied with hands or workmen it is properly formed 
from the noun liand. 

Under his signature. 
See Signature. 



Unfrequently meaning infrequently is a legitimate 
word, but of rare occurrence. It is seldom used to- 
day except by those who write it by mistake for 


Unique means single, the only one of its kind. 
Therefore, more unique and most unique are illogical. 
When we say most perfect we mean most nearly 
perfect. Any one who says most unique is apt to 
say it because he thinks that unique means unusual. 
See Chief esty Fully Perfect, Most. 

United States. 

United States may take either a singular or a plural 
verb, according as one thinks of the nation as a 
unit or of the separate states composing it. It is 
most commonly construed in the singular. 


Unmoral means non-moral, neither moral nor im- 
moral. Immoral means without moral sense, wicked. 


Unreadable may mean either incapable of being de- 
ciphered, or not fit to read. Ordinarily, however, it 
means not fit to read, and illegible is used to mean 

See Till. 

See III. 



Up is often used redundantly with verbs, as, heaty 
cooky connecty finish, mix, study, and many others. 
With many verbs, however, it adds an idea of to- 
taUty or finality that is not redundant. *'Cut the 
meat,'' means one thing; ''cut the meat up," means 
another. So with break up, burn up, eat up, and the 

See On. 

Up to. 
See p. 10. 

Us going. 
See Me. 


One of the old meanings of use is to be accustomed, 
be in the habit. It is now seldom used except in the 
past tense, but the difference between use to and used 
to is scarcely perceptible in speech. Accordingly, u^e 
to sometimes appears where the writer intends the 
past tense. It is sanctioned by present usage. The 
vulgar didnH used to, or, worse, didnH use to is incor- 
rect. This should be u^ed not to. 



Valuable most commonly means having financial 
worth. It should be distinguished frojn valued when 


valued means held in respect or esteem. Valuable 
would be clearly the wrong word in such expressions 
as your valued letter y his valued friendshipy unless the 
speaker wishes to indicate the material gain that 
comes to him from either. 

See Oral. 


The New York Evening Post advises its reporters 
not to get into the ^^very habit.'' If we refrain 
from qualifying adjectives and adverbs with very 
until the word is actually needed to express the 
meaning, it will have some force when it is used. 

The old adverbial form of very was verily, which 
was used to qualify verbs as well as adjectives and 
adverbs. Very has never succeeded without restric- 
tion to all the uses of verily. It is, however, used 
more in England than in the United States to qualify 
past participles, as very frightened where most Amer- 
icans would say very much frightened. See Too. 


See Crime. 


See Environment. 


When view is used figuratively to indicate purpose 
it is most commonly followed by to^ as, with a view 
to testing his powers. Where it is'"used Uterally we 


sometimes say to as indicating direction, as, a imidow 
mith a view to the south. If a specific point is named 
we usually say towardsy as, a view towards tfie mountain. 
To indicate the general scene we use of, as, a view 
of the valley. 


Visit with is colloquial or vulgar. Visit correctly 
takes the direct object, as, visit me, visit him. 


See Avocation. 



Wakey awake, waken, and awaken in both transi- 
tive and intransitive uses, meaning to arouse or to 
arouse oneself from sleep, are indistinguishable in 
meaning except in so far as awake and awaken are 
more frequent in figurative senses. Up may perhaps 
be redundant with wake, but it is well established as 
an idiom. 


Want of and want with have been condemned in 
such constructions as ^^What do you want of a new 
hat?'' ^^What do you want with the kniffe?'' They 
probably originate in questions as to persons. ^ ^ What 
do you want of me?'' would be correct as meaning 
^^What do you wish to have from me?" Want with 
as applied to things is probably an ellipsis for ^^ What 
do you want to do with it?" The worst that can 
be said of either phrase is that it is colloquial. Both 


are now so widely used that they may almost be 
called idiomatic. 

Want is correctly, but perhaps somewhat collo- 
quially, used to mean need, as in the Hatter's re- 
mark to AHce (in Alice in Wonderland) y ^'Your hair 
wants cutting.'' It is not recognized as allowable 
even colloquially as meaning ought (with the infini- 
tive); as, ^^You want to get your hair cut." 


For was to be and similar phrases, see Is. 

The New York Evening Post tells its reporters that 
''The inverted passives was given , was accorded, etc., 
may be avoided in copy, but are not regarded as un- 
grammatical. ' ' This fairly represents the modern at- 
titude toward these constructions. The following 
passage from Sweet's New English Grammar explains 
what is meant by the inverted pa sive: 

In Old-English only transitive verbs could be used in 
the passive. Verbs which governed any other case than 
the accusative could not be put into the passive. Thus 
there is no passive form corresponding to he ihancode hire, 
"he thanked her." But as soon as the distinction between 
the dative and accusative was lost, it was inevitable that 
from the active he thanked her should be formed the pas- 
sive she was thanked. To us, thank is as much a transitive 
verb as praise. But we still hesitate over and try to 
evade such passive constructions as she was given a watch, 
he was granted an audience, because we still feel that she 
and he are in the dative, not the accusative, relation. 


Way has been a colloquial contraction for away 
^ince Chaucer's time. In the United States we have 


it in many colloquial phrases in which the full word 
away would be misused. English dictionaries, for 
example, do not recognize away in the sense of far, 
as in, away out West, away off. American diction- 
aries call these phrases colloquial; they become 
doubly so with way. As a noun way is correctly used 
to mean a short distance, as, a little way down the 
road. In this sentence ways is vulgar. (Compare 
Everywhere.) The phrases wend his way and wing 
his way are stereotyped expressions of alliterative 
poetry. They are too shopworn to have any value 
in modern prose, 

Welsh rabbit. 
See Rabbit. 


Went is the past tense of the verb to go. It is 
always incorrect when used as the past participle, as, 
'^ had went." 


Were rather than was is the correct form in such 
expressions as ^'I wish I were." The word wish in- 
dicates that the state of affairs is more or less remote 
from fact. Therefore it demands the subjunctive 


We are told that "What did you come for" is an 
incorrect form of the question ''Why did you 
come?" It is not necessarily so if the question 
means what thing or things did you come for. Even 


as meaning ''Why did you come?'' it might be held 
to signify /or what purpose did you come? 

What is incorrectly used for that in such construc- 
tions as ''I don't know but what I might." See 


Both whatever and wherever are vulgarly used in 
questions as intensives of what and where, as, ''What- 
ever shall I do?" "Wherever shall I go?" This 
usage is universally condenmed. See However. 

See From. 


Whereas is properly a contraction for where is and 
not for where are. Thus, such a question as ' ' Where's 
my skates?" is, strictly speaking, ungrammatical. 


As a noun whereabouts is construed with singular 
verbs and pronouns, as, "His whereabouts is at 
present unknown or else it is being kept secret." 


Whether is commonly used with or as a correlative. 
If the alternative normally introduced by oris one that 
would be easily or inevitably inferred, the clause with 
or may be omitted, as, " I do not know whether he will 
come." Here the omitted clause is the simple nega- 
tive or not; this may almost always be omitted. 
The second clause, if it is a simple alternative to the 


first, should not be introduced by a second whether. 
After the first clause has been completed by or^ a 
second entirely new alternative may be introduced 
by another whether, as, "I do not know whether he 
will go to Chicago or to Omaha, or whether he will 
take me with him when he goes/' Whether should 
not be used in both clauses, as, '*I don't know 
whether I shall go to Chicago, or whether I shall go 
to Omaha.'' Or should introduce the second clause. 

// in the sense of whether, as, ''I do not know if 
he will go," is very old usage. It has been censured, 
however, by modern critics, and the present tend- 
ency is to use whetlier. 

The phrase whetlier or no is an old idiom possibly 
elliptical for whether any or none. That the no in 
this phrase stands for none seems to be indicated by 
such quotations as '^^ I will,' she said, 'do as he coun- 
seled me, comfort or no.'" The phrase is also idio- 
matic in the form whether or not. In this form it 
may be that not stands for naught. 


As conjunction and adverb while and whilst are 
the same in all senses. In poetic phrasing whilst ap- 
pears also as a noun, as in the phrase the whilst. 

While is much abused as a general utility connec- 
tive. It is correctly used in a certain figurative 
sense meaning at the same time that, expressing a 
logical connection, as, ''While this proposition is 
undoubtedly sound, we should nevertheless keep in 
mind," etc. The misuse of while as a connective is 
its use to mean merely and, but, notwithstanding, or to 


express any one of one hundred relationships each 
one of which has a connective of its own. See And. 


The choice between who and whom in the sentences 
''Who do you suppose is his father?' ' and ''Whom 
do you suppose to be his father?'' depends on the 
construction of the pronoun in the sentence. In the 
first ivho is in the nominative case because it is 
the subject of the verb is, and the whole relative 
clause (who is his father) is the object of suppose. 
In the second the pronoun is the object of suppose, 
as it is clearly in such a sentence as "do you sup>- 
pose him to be my father?'^ In the sentence, "This 
is the boy whom you said you saw," whom is the 
object of saw. The construction is more obvious 
when the sentence is put in the form "This is the 
boy whom you saw, as you said/' 


Whole as used for all in such an expression as "the 
whole steps to the Christian life," has been criticized. 
Whole is correctly used to mean all or at least entire 
in such phrases as the ivhole city, the whole race, and 
the like. The real difficulty in the phrase the whole 
steps is that whole is improperly used with a plural 
noun. Whole of is improperly used for all for the 
same reason in such an expression as the whole of the 
delegates. Whole of with the singular noun, as the 
whole of the congregation, is no worse than colloquial. 
In formal speech we should say entire. Whole lot for 
a great deal is also colloquial. See Lot. 


See Healthy. 

See Who. 


Whose is the possessive case of what as well as of 
who. The modern tendency is to use of which 
wherever possible in referring to animals or things. 
Whosey however, is correct in such constructions. 


For the use of why in clauses of cause and reason, 
see Because and Reason. 


See Shall. For he that as it will, see As. 


When wind means to sound by blowing, as of a horn, 
the preterit should be winded. The preterit wound 
belongs to the verb wind when it means to turn. It 
appears as the preterit of the verb meaning to sound 
by association with the other verb, and probably 
also from some vague idea of fitness by association 
with the curves of the horn. 


The use of the past form wished for the present, 
as, '^I wished I had one too,'* is vulgar. It arises 
possibly as a contraction of wish that. 


For with after want, see Want. 


Without or without that, meaning unless, as, ''You 
can't come in without you have your ticket/' is not 
used to-day by careful writers or speakers except to 
give the effect of archaic language. See also But and 

Womanly and Womanish. 
See Childlike. 


As an adverb worse is properly used to mean with 
more severity, more intensity, but it is always incor- 
rectly used to mean merely more, as, ''After I saw it 
I wanted it worse than before." Worst is similarly 
misused in such expressions as "I wanted it the 
worst way." 


For ordinary uses of would and should, see Shall. 
For would better, would rather, would sooner, would 
liefer, see Have. 

Wouldn't that jar you. 
See p. 6. 


Write followed by the indirect object without the 
preposition to, as, nrrite me on Wednesday, is set 
down as commercial or vulgar, which means that it 


is perhaps allowable in business letters, but nowhere 
else. Me without the preposition legitmiately fol- 
lows write in the Shakespearian construction ^' Write 
me a sonnet/' meaning something like for vie, and, 
''Oh, that he were here to write me down an ass,'' 
in which the meaning maybewhat the reader pleases, 
since it is Dogberry who says it. With the direct 
object as well as the indirect the construction seems 
more acceptable. Write me a letter or vrrite me a post- 
card seem at worst nothing more than colloquial. 


Wrong and wrongly are both adverbs and in many 
constructions either form may be used. Where the 
adverb immediately precedes the verb, wrongly is 
required, as, '^The word was wrongly printed." 


See Annual. 


For such expressions as ''A child of four years,'' 
see Of. 


When yet means up to the present time^ hitherto, it 
may be used interchangeably with as yet. 


You is sometimes used generically to mean one or 
any one, as, ''You never can tell, "You soon get used 


to it/' and the like. It is idiomatic usage, but is 
always rather colloquial and is easily overworked — 
that is, it becomes monotonous if the construction is 
long sustained. You all for you is a piece of Ameri- 
can dialect. See p. 4. 

See p. 8, 

Part III 


(Many of these definitions are taken from the 
author's Guide to Good English, Harper & Brothers, 
1914, where such matters will be found fully dis- 


Absolute use of a word or phrase is its use without 
a connective to show its relation to other words or 
phrases. An absolute construction is usually a parti- 
ciple with related words, standing without a con- 
nective, in the place of a clause, as, ^^ Being tired, he 
sat down," '' The bridge being closed, we turned to the 

Abstract noun. 

An abstract noun is one which names something 
which is not apprehended by the senses, as, justice, 


Accidence is the part of grammar which deals with 
inflectional changes of words, the changes of form to 
indicate changes of meaning, such as number and 
case of nouns and pronouns, tense, mood, and voice 
in verbs, and the like. The word accidence is said to 
be a variant of accidents. The changes were probably 
thought of as accidental in that they are sUght 


changes which do not affect the essential form of the 


The acaisative or objective is the case of a noun or 
pronoun (or any substantive element of a sentence) 
which stands as the object of a verb or preposition. 
It may be indicated by the form of the word, as, 
nominative, he, she; accusative, /iim, her. 

Active voice. 

A verb is said to be in the active voice when the 
subject of the verb acts, performs the action denoted 
by the verb. It is in the passive voice when the sub- 
ject is acted upon; as, active, I hold; passive, I am 


An additive conjunction is one which expresses no 
relationship between the words or ideas it connects, 
except that one is added to the other, — that they 
coexist; as, and, also, moreover. 


An adjective is a word used to modify or describe 
a substantive or noun; as, 'Hhe small basket. '' A 
phrase, or group of words may be used as an ad- 
jective; as, '*the but recently discovered islands.'' Such 
a phrase is usually called an adjective phrase. 


An adverb is a word used to limit or modify a verb, 
adjective, or pther adverb; as, **go quickly,** An 


adverbial phrase is a phrase used in the same way; 
as, '^He started with all the speed of which he was 


An adversative connective or conjunction is one 
which sets off two ideas in opposition or antithesis; 
as, buty however. 


Grammatical agreement is the necessary corre- 
spondence between subject and verb in person and 
number, and between noun and pronoun in number 
and case, and the hke. 


An Americanism is a word, phrase, or construction 
pecuhar to the EngUsh of the United States, not in 
current use in, or characteristic of, the Enghsh of 
Great Britain. Such are elevator, baggage, freight-car, 
where British use has (respectively) lift, luggage, 
goods-van. See also the discussion of idiom and slang 
in the ^^ Guiding Principles," Part I. 


The antecedent of a pronoun is the noun which is 
the name of the object which the pronoun designates. 
In the sentence, '^I dropped the vase, but it did not 
break, '^ vase is the antecedent of the pronoun it. 


Language is archaic which is no longer in general 
use, but is used when the writer or speaker wishes to 
give a tone of antiquity to his discourse, as: 


"'Hold off! Unhaiid me, graybeard loon!' 
Eftsoons his hand dropped he/' 


The article is the part of speech represented by a or 
an as the indefinite article, and the as the definite 
article. Like the adjective, the article attaches to 
the noun, but with little or no limiting or modifying 


Articulate means jointed. As applied to speech or 
sound, it means divided into words or syllables^ or, pro- 
nounced distinctly. 


Distinct pronunciation, division into syllables; see 


Pronounced with a breathing sound; the sound of 
the letter h. 


In grammatical language an attribute is either a 
quality ascribed to something, or the word which so 
ascribes it, an attributive word. 


An attributive word, or an attributive, is a word, 
usually an adjective, which ascribes a quality to 
something, as, swift in 'Hhe swift ship." In *Hhe 
ship is swift," swift is not attributive, but predica- 



An auxiliary verb is a helping verb which is added 
to another to express tense, mode, or state or condi- 
tion of action. The common auxihary verbs are be, 
can, dOj have, shall, will, should, would, could, may, 
must, might. 


A supposed source-word which is really a deriva- 
tive. The verb to burgle is a back-formation from 
the noun burglar because it seems to be the source of 
the noun, as drive is the source of driver, whereas 
really the verb arises merely because the noun 
sounds like a noun of agent coming from a verb. 
So when we define sculptor as one who sculps, we 
have the verb sculp as a back-formation from the 
noun. Jell (verb) is a back-formation from jelly; 
enthuse is a back-formation from enthusiasm; ovate 
a back-formation from ovation; peeve a back-forma- 
tion from peevish. 


The case of noun, adjective, or pronoun is its 
relation to some other word in the sentence. If the 
word is inflected, its case will appear in its form, as, 
nominative, he; accusative (objective), him; pos- 
sessive, his. 


A group of words containing subject and predicate 
combined with other such group or groups to form a 
sentence. A clause which would form a complete 
sentence if it stood by itself is called an independent 


clause, as, *'I shall go fishing." A clause which 
would not so fomi a sentence is called a dependent 
clause, as, '4f it does not rain." 


As a rhetorical term, clearness has been defined as 
"the quality of writing which appeals to the in- 


As applied to the use of words, colloquial means 
acceptable in informal or familiar speech, but not in 
formal or elevated speech or urriting. 

Common noun. 

A noun which designates an object merely as a 
member of a class, not as an individual, as, man, 
laborer, farm. See also Proper noun. 


The form of an adjective which indicates a higher 
degree of the quality in the object named than in 
some other object, as, higher, wetter. See also Posi- 
tive and Superlative. 


The change of form in adjectives to indicate the 
degree (amount or intensity) of the qualities they 
name. See Comparative. 


A complex sentence is one which has two or more 
clauses one or more of which must be dependent or 


subordinate, as, ''While we were getting up the 
mainsail, the sun rose and the wind began to blow." 


A compound sentence is one composed of two or 
more independent clauses. It contains two or more 
subjects and predicates, as, ''The sun rose, and the 
wind began to blow.'' See Simple and Complex. 


A concessional clause is one which concedes (ad- 
mits) something, as, '^ Though I walk through the 
valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil," 
^'Even if I am a fool, you needn't remind me of it." 

Concrete noun. 

A noun which names a concrete thing, as, water, 

Conditional clause. 

A clause which attaches a condition to the action 
of the main verb of the sentence, as, "// /i6 sees you, 
he will run." 

Conditional mode. 

The mode of the verb in conditional clauses intro- 
duced by if or unless. English has no separately in- 
flected forms for the conditional, but often uses the 
subjunctive, as, "If that were the case, I should 
telegraph at once." 


A word used to connect words or groups of words, 
as, "Proud and saucy," "Yes, but you don't go." 



Any word, not necessarily a conjunction, or any 
plirase, clause, or sentence, used to give coherence 
to discourse by showing relationship between ideas, 
as, ^'TliiSy then, is the present state of the case,'' 
''Be that as it inay, I shall not go a step farther." 


Imply or suggest, as applied to the meaning of a 
word. The connotation of a word, as opposed to its 
denotation, its ^'dictionary meaning,'' is the more or 
less vague halo of suggested meaning which gathers 
round it. 


The building together of words. The construction 
of a word, phrase, or clause is its grammatical rela- 
tion to others. 


To combine grammatically, as, ''Eaves is usually 
construed with a singular verb." Also to parse, to 
explain the grammatical relation of words. 


Of equal rank. Two coordinate clauses have the 
same rank in the sentence; are either both inde- 
pendent, or both dependent. See also Subordinate. 


A coordinating conjunction is one which joins 
coordinate clauses, as, and, but. See alsp Subordi- 



Pairs of corresponding words or phrases regularly 
used together, as, whether . . . or, not only . . .but also, 
so . . . as, and the like. 


'^Designating the case of a noun which expresses 
the relation of indirect or remoter object, generally 
indicated in modern English by to or for with the 
objective'' (Webster). 


As applied to a word, denote means to signify, mean. 
As opposed to connote^ it applies to the express mean- 
ing, rather than to that which the word suggests or 

Dependent clause. 

A dependent clause is one which depends for part of 
its meaning on another clause or other clauses in the 
sentence, as, '4f you are going.'' See Clause. 

Derived meaning. 

A secondary meaning arising, often from a figure 
of speech, from the first or primary meaning of a word. 
Thus clash, meaning primarily a certain kind of 
harsh noise, comes to mean collision and conflict, from 
the occurrences which give rise to the noise. Many 
examples will be found in Part II, as under Implicit. 


A form of speech showing the peculiarities belong- 
ing to a certain locality or group of speakers. 



Choice of words. 

Direct discourse. 

Speech quoted in the exact words of the speaker, 
as, *^He said, ^I am going.^^* See Indirect discourse. 

Direct object. 

The substantive standing in the nearest or imme- 
diate objective relationship to a verb or preposition, 
as distinct from the indirect, or more remote object. 
In the sentence, ''He gave coffee to the soldiers," 
coffee is the direct object of gave; soldiers is the direct 
object of to and the indirect object of gave. 

See Direct and Indirect. 


A word which refers to each individual of a class 
or group rather than to the class or group as a whole, 
as, eachy every. As an adjective it means having the 
force or effect of a distributive word. 


Rhetorically, ease in discourse is the quality that 
pleases the ear. 

The same as ease; see definition above. 


An omission of logically necessary words which are 
more or less clearly understood, as, ''I can but 


think'' for '^I can do naught else but think/' ''as if" 
for ''as it would be if." 

Elliptical construction. 

A phrase or sentence involving an ellipsis, under- 
stood as if the missing words were expressed. For 
examples see under 7s ("Isn't but one") and In 
("In future") in Part II. 


The substitution of an acceptable expression for 
one that is harsh or unpleasant, as, pass away for 
die, appropriate for steal, limb for leg. 


Familiar speech is the colloquial speech which we 
use with familiars, but not with those with whom we 
are on more formal terms. 

Figurative language. 
Language involving figures of speech. 

Figure of speech. 

A departure from literal truth, or from the literal 
meaning of words or expressions, intended to give 
force or emotional effect to the discourse; as when 
Shelley speaks of the dying leaves of autumn as 
' ' pestilence-stricken multitudes. ' ' See Metaphor and 


A finite verb is one of the forms of the verb which 
gpre limited to certain times or conditions of action 


(any forms which indicate mode or tense), or to use 
with expressed subjects. All forms of the verb are 
finite except the infinitive and gerund. 


Tenses of the verb describing action which has not 
yet taken place. 


The case in inflected languages which expresses 
possession or source, indicated in English by the 
possessive case or by oj or Jrom. 


The verbal noun in -ing; see Infinitive. 


Govern in the grammatical sense is used of verbs 
and prepositions that require certain cases in nouns 
depending on them. They are said to govern either 
the dependent noun or the case they require. 


The science of language, dealing usually with acci- 
dence (inflectional forms of words) and syntax (the 
relations of words to one another in the sentence) 
and phonology (the science of spoken sounds). 


The technical name of the figure that depends on 
exaggeration for its force; in common use, the word 
means merely exaggeration. 


Exaggerated; see definition above. 



A form of speech peculiar to a given language, 
which could not be translated into another. Also, 
a form of speech not according to strict rules of 
grammar, but sanctioned by good usage. See 
''Guiding Principles/' Part I. 


Having the qualities and characteristics of an 


A construction is called illogical when it is absurd 
if the words are taken strictly in the meanings, as, 
He acted as though he were angry.'' 


The mode of command in the verb; ^^Come at 


Indefinite pronoun. 

A pronoun which does not determine the person or 
thing to which it refers. These words are sometimes 
pronouns and sometimes adjectives. The class in- 
cludes such words as all, any, any one, aught, both, 
each, either, every, feio, many, naught, none, nobody, 
neither, one, other, some, something, somewhat, such. 

Independent clause. 

An independent clause is one which would make a 
complete sentence if it stood by itself, as, ''/ will 
come as soon as I find my hat." See Clause and 



The mode of the verb which indicates that the 
action is thought of as fact, as, '* If it is true, I shall 
hear of it/' See Subjunctive. 

Indirect discourse. 

Speech quoted in words not exactly those of the 
speaker, in a clause introduced by that after a verb 
of saying, as, ''He said that he would goJ^ The exact 
words of the speaker were ''I will go." See Direct 

Indirect object. 

The more remote object of the action of a verb. 
In the sentence, ''He gave it to me,'' me is the indirect 
object, and it the direct object, of the verb gave. 
See Direct object. 


The parts of the verb which are not finite are the 
infinitive and the gerund. The infinitive may express 
action without subject or condition, as, "To err is 
human; to forgive y divine." The gerund is the ver- 
bal noun in -ing. It is unlimited in its use, and is 
sometimes called an infinitive: ^^ Working {i.e., to 
work) all day is hard." 


The changes through which a word goes to indicate 
changes in meaning, as the declension of a noun or 
adjective, the conjugation of a verb, comparison of 
an adjective, and the like. See Accidence. 



A word serving to give force or emphasis, as, 
^'He himself has said it," ^^aZZ-righteous." 


A word ^Hhrown in'' without grammatical relation 
with others, and with hardly more than an implied 
meaning, to express emotion, as, oh, alas, pshaw, 
hurrah, and the like. 

Put in as an afterthought, insert. 

Having the form or effect of a question. 


A verb which takes no object is called intransitive, 
as, walk, rejoice, fly. Such expressions as '^walk a 
mile,'' ''walk the plank," ''rejoice the heart," "fly 
the kite," do not exhibit direct objects for these 
verbs, — they mean "walk for a mile," "walk on the 
plank," "cause the heart to rejoice," "make the 
kite fly." The fact that in English we do not dis- 
tinguish accusative from dative obscures the dis- 
tinction between transitive and intransitive. See 

Inverted passive. 

A passive construction in which the indirect object 
of the active verb becomes the subject of the passive 
verb. For the active construction "They gave him 
a watch," the normal passive would be "A watch 



was given to him by them/' in which the object 
(watch) of the active verb becomes the subject of the 
passive verb. In the inverted passive, *'He was 
given a watch/' the subject is the indirect object 
of the active verb. See further explanation under 
Was in Part IL 

Irregular verb. 

A verb not conjugated according to a normal or 
regular method, as the verb to be. Some grammarians 
call all strong verbs irregular. See Strong verb and 
Weak verb. 

Allowable, in good use, generally accepted. 


Grammatically the same as modify, as an ad- 
jective limits or modifies a noun, an adverb a verb, 
and the like. 

Logical absurdity. 

An absurdity from the logical point of view. See 
example under Alike in Part II. 

Loose sentence. 

A sentence which is grammatically complete before 
the end, as, '^I went, and as soon as I got there I 
found,'' etc. The first two words grammatically 
complete a sentence. See Periodic. 


A figure which implies likeness between two things 
by applying to one a word literally applicable only to 


the other, or by assuming it to be another. Thus, to 
say, ''The mob surged up the hill,'' imphes, by using 
the word surge, that the mob is like the sea. ''Shoot 
folly as it flies,'' assumes that folly is like a bird. 

Mode (or mood). 

A series of changes in the form of a verb to indicate 
the manner of the action. The mode which indicates 
that the action of the verb is thought of as fact is 
called indicative. That which marks the action as 
possibly not fact is called subjunctive. Other so- 
called modes are not properlj^ inflected forms in 
English (see Conditional). 


Qualify the meaning of a word or phrase. 

Modifying clause. 

One which adds an idea that limits but is not es- 
sential to the idea it modifies, as, "Jim Smith, who 
had been fast asleep all the time, suddenly began to 
applaud." See also Restrictive clause. 

See Mode. 


The case of the subject of the verb and all words in 
agreement with it. 

Non-restrictive clause. 

Same as modifying clause. 


Normal order. 

The normal order of the English sentence is 
(1) subject and its modifiers, (2) verb and its modi- 
fiers, (3) object and its modifiers; as, '^The frightened 
horse ran swiftly down the narrow street/' 


A word which stands as the name of something. 
See also Common noun, Proper noun, Abstract noun. 
Concrete noun, Substantive, 


The change in the form of noun, pronoun, adjec- 
tive, or verb, to indicate reference to one person or 
thing, or to more than one. 


The word, phrase, or clause, naming that on or 
toward which the action of the verb is exerted or 
directed, or that with which a preposition expresses 
relation. See Direct object and Indirect object. 


The case of the object of verb or preposition; 
same as accusative. 


On the way to become obsolete, going out of use. 


Gone out of use, discarded as antiquated. 


The imitation by words of the sounds they are 
intended to name, as, murmur, hubbub. 


Parallel construction (or structure). 

Similarity of construction in clauses that serve the 
same purpose in the sentence, as, '^To have positive 
opinions, to keep oneself informed, to vote at every 
election, these are the requisites for membership." 


To explain the grammatical relations of a word to 
others, or to analyze a sentence grammatically, ex- 
plaining its structure. 


The verbal adjective in -ing or -ed and correspond- 
ing forms in more or less irregular verbs. It is like 
the adjective in modifying nouns, pronouns, and 
substantive phrases and clauses; like the verb in 
that it expresses action, has tense, and takes an 
object. See Gerund. 

Passive voice. 

The forms of the verb that indicate that the sub- 
ject is acted upon, as, active, / hold; passive, / am 

Perfect tense. 

The tense which denotes the action of the verb 
as complete at the time of speaking, as, '^He has 


A term applied to a sentence (less often to a para- 
graph or larger unit of discourse) which, by withhold- 
ing the verb or other essential element, suspends the 
completion of its meaning to near the end. The open- 


ing sentence of the Declaration of Independence is 
an example. See also Loose. 


Form of pronoun or verb to indicate whether the 
antecedent of the pronoun or the subject of the verb 
is the speaker (first person), the person addressed 
(second person), or some one who is neither the 
speaker nor the one addressed (third person). 

Personal pronouns. 

The pronouns designating person; first person, / 
and we; second person, thou and you; third person, 
hCy shCy it, they. 


Grammatically, a group of related words not con- 
taining subject and predicate; loosely the term 
applied to any small group of words. 


A form of redundancy involving the use of words 
which might be omitted without impairing the 
meaning. It may be used to give emphasis. See 
Redundancy and Tautology. 


^'The property of a word by virtue of which it 
denotes more than one" (Webster). 


The ordinary form of the adjective or adverb in- 
dicating no special degree (amount or intensity) of 
the quaUty it names. 



The case of noun, adjective, or pronoun denoting 


The part of the sentence, normally the verb and 
its modifiers, expressing what is said of the subject, — 
the subject denoting the thing about which some- 
thing is said. 

Predicate adjective. 

An adjective completing the meaning of the pred- 
icate, as, ^^The window looks clean, ^^ '^The well is 

Predicate nominative. 

A noun in the nominative case completing the 
predicate with verbs of being , seeming , becoming, etc., 
as, ^^The Prince became -Emperor,'' ^'Chaucer was 
a poetJ' 



See Attributive. 


One or more syllables added to the beginning of a 
word to change its meaning, as, arc/ibishop, ex- 


A word which connects a substantive called its 
object with other words in the sentence, as, *'Come 
to me," ''The General luith his aides." 



Having the nature or effect of a preposition. 

Present use. 

The usage of to-day as contrasted with obsolescent 
or obsolete usage. See Part I. 


Past tense; appUed specifically to the tense that 
denotes the action merely as past, as distinguished 
from the past tense which takes account of duration, 
as, went (preterit) distinguished from was going. 

Primary meaning. 

The first or original meaning of a word; not 
necessarily, however, taking it back farther than it 
can readily be traced in EngUsh. See, for example, 
successive meanings of Moot in Part II. 

Principal parts. 

A series of forms chosen to exhibit the different 
stems of the verb; in English they are the present 
indicative or infinitive, the preterit, and the past 
participle, as, gOy went, gone. 


A word used instead of a noun. Its function is to 
designate an object without naming it — as does the 
pronoun it in this sentence. 

Proper noun. 

A noun which names an individual without neces- 
sarily referring it to its class, as, James Quinn, Hillside 


AcreSj Memorial Day, The common noun names 
only the class, as, laborer, farrriy holiday. 


Diction which belongs to the provinces rather than 
to the capital; countrified. 

Quotation (direct and indirect). 
See Indirect and Direct discourse. 


The use of superfluous words. It is the larger 
term, including tautology, pleonasm, and others. 

Unnecessary or containing superfluous words. 

Reflexive pronouns. 

Pronouns compounded of the personal pronouns 
with self {myself, himself, etc.) are reflexives when 
used to indicate that the subject of the verb exerts 
on himself the action denoted by the verb, as, '^He 
hurt himself." 


A relative pronoun is a pronoun used as a con- 
nective to indicate grammatical relation, as, who, 
which, what, that. Other words in certain con- 
structions or meanings may be relatives, as, but 
when it means that . . . not (see But in Part II). 
A relative clause is a clause introduced by a relative 
connective, most often a relative pronoun, as, *'He 
is the man who did itJ^ 



A clause limiting the meaning of a noun or sub- 
stantive element of the sentence, and inseparable 
from it in meaning, as, ''The book which we are read- 
ing now is much more interesting than the former 
one/' See also Modifying. 


The personal address to the recipient at the begin- 
ning of a letter, as, ''Dear John," "Dear Cousin 
Anne,'' "My dear Mr. Smith, 


Secondary meaning. 

The derived meaning of a word arising from the 
primary or original meaning. For example, see 
Moot in Part II. 


The smallest independent unit of discourse, con- 
sisting in its simplest form of a subject and a predi- 
cate, as, "I went." 

Sequence of tenses. 

The relation of the time of the verbs of the two or 
more verbs in the main and subordinate clauses of a 
complex sentence. In "I knew that he said it," the 
time of both verbs is past in reference to the time 
when the sentence is spoken, but one is not neces- 
sarily past in reference to the other, as in "I know 
that he said it." There is no rule for sequence of 
tenses in English except that they must express what 
the speaker wishes to express. "I wished to have 
done it," means "I wished at that time to have done 


it at some time still further in the past/' and is 
incorrect if the speaker means ''I wished to do it/' 


An imaginative comparison, which, for emotional 
effect, likens two objects in one or more aspects, 
however unlike they may be in others, as, *'My love 
is like a red, red rose.'' 

Simple futurity. 

The time of an action represented as to happen in 
future in the ordinary course of events, uninfluenced 
by volition, determination, promise, or prophecy. 

Simple sentence. 

A sentence composed of a single independent 
clause. It contains one subject and one predicate, 
as, '^The sun rose." 


Denoting one person or thing. 


Words and phrases in more or less disreputable 
use, usually comparatively new coinages, but often 
very old. See general discussion of the subject in 
Part I (pp. 6-10). 

Speech, figures of. 

See Figurative language. 


Emphasis or accent placed on a syllable or a word 
in speech, usually consisting in an increase in the 


volume of sound of the voice and in the length of 
time taken to pronounce the word or syllable. 

Strong verb. 

A verb that forms its preterit and past participle 
by a change in the vowel rather than by adding -ed, 
as, drink, drank, drunk. Some grammarians call 
such verbs irregular in spite of their uniformity. 
See Weak verb. 


The substantive word, phrase, or clause, denoting 
that about which something is said. 


The mode of the verb which indicates that the 
action is thought of as possibly not fact, as, ^'If I 
were you.'' See discussion of certain constructions 
under As in Part II. 

Subordinate clause. 

Dependent clause; a clause which is dependent 
for its meaning on another clause, as, '*if it rains.'' 

Subordinating conjunction. 

A conjunction which necessarily introduces a sub- 
ordinate or dependent clause, as, if, though, while. 


That which has the nature of a noun, as nouns, 
pronouns, noun-phrases, noun-clauses. 


Letter or syllable appended to a word to change 
its meaning as a regular process of word-formation, 
as, -ed in stilted, -or in conductor. 



Form of the adjective denoting the highest degree 
of the quaUty expressed by the adjective. 


The smallest unit of pronunciation, containing one 
vowel sound and in many cases such consonant 
sounds as immediately precede it, or follow it, or 


A word that is the equivalent of another in the 
same language in all or most of its meanings and 
uses. See p. 11. 


The relations of words in sentences; sentence con- 
struction; the rules governing such relations. 


Govern, be followed by, as, ''An adjective cannot 
take a dependent clause'' (p. 26), ''A transitive 
verb may take a direct object.'' 


A form of redundancy consisting of a repetition of 
the idea in different words, as, ''a new beginner," 

surrounded on all sides," ''dotted here and there." 



Pertaining to a special process, trade, profession, 
sport, etc. See p. 4. 



Form of the verb indicating the time, and in some 
instances the degree of completion, of the action 
denoted by the verb. 


Capable of taking a direct object. 


Receiving no stress in pronunciation, as, the syl- 
lable "tion in proportional. 


As a rhetorical term, unity means singleness of pur- 
pose and effect in sentence, paragraph, or whole 


Same as Unaccented. 


Not clearly expressed or defined, having only in- 
distinct meaning; distinguished from ambiguous, 
which means having two possible meanings. 


Form of a word diflfering only in comparatively 
unessential detail from the one named, as, bye from 
by, draft from draught. 


A word which asserts or declares; the part of 
speech which predicates; as, *4 read,'' '^You know 



Partaking of the nature of the verb, as, ''The 
gerund is a verbal noun.'' As substantive, that 
which partakes of the nature of the verb. 


The forms of the verb indicating whether the sub- 
ject acts (active voice) or is acted upon (passive 
voice). See Active and Passive. 


Exercise of the will; voluntary choice of future 
action; see >S/iaH in Part II. 


Plebeian, low, coarse. 

Weak verb. 

One which is inflected by the addition of syllables 
to the stem, rather than by vowel changes in the 
stem (see Strong verb), as, hate, hated. 





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